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12,000 Finnish soldiers start war games

Major war games take place at two year intervals, this time focusing on the defense of Finland's south-eastern region.

Varusmiehiä.
Rapid response is the main theme of these war games. Image: Petri Aaltonen / Yle

From Wednesday the 27th through December 4th, Finnish defense forces will be mounting resistance to an imaginary attack from the north along an equally imaginary border running across the country at about 62° north.

That was all some 12,000 personnel preparing to meet the hypothetical threat knew on Wednesday morning.

"The rest is only known to the planners and exercise controllers. So, for example, to conscripts the situation looks like the real thing," explains Lt. Colonel Tomi Pekurinen of Finland's Army Academy.

The exercise, dubbed "Kaakko 19", is aimed at testing the Defense Force's readiness to react to a fluid, swiftly changing situation. Taking part are 6,200 conscripts, 3,200 reservists, and 2,600 regular army and Border Guards.

"It has happened all over the world that situations have escalated quickly and led to the use of military force. Previously, it was assumed that we'd have weeks or months to prepare our own response," says Pekurinen.

Story continues after photo.

Harjoitus käynnissä.
Troop movements may affect road traffic in the southeast during the exercises. Image: Toni Pitkänen / Yle

Land, sea and air

All branches of the military will have a part in the exercise, including coordination with the Border Guard.

Many residents of the south-east are likely to see military activity over the next week. War gaming will be going on in areas around Savitaipale, Taipalsaari, Lappeenranta, Mikkeli, Mäntyharju, Valkeala, Hamina, Kotka and Porvoo.

Locals may encounter military road convoys made up of mainly lorries and buses. Most of the action, however, will take place in Defense Forces training areas.

At sea and in coastal areas, naval units will be involved in coordinated exercises along Upinniemi-Kotka-Hamina, as well as in the archipelago and further out in the Gulf of Finland. Ten naval vessels and coastal artillery are taking part.

Seven Air Force jets will be operating in a zone covering Hamina–Imatra–Savonlinna–Mikkeli–Jyväskylä–Lahti–Porvoo. Air Force exercises kicked off last Friday with practice bombings using precision-guided munitions at a range north of Kouvola.

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