March 25, 2020 / 11:28 AM / 11 days ago

Putin orders Russian military drills to increase coronavirus capabilities

FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting on fighting the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia March 24, 2020. Sputnik/Alexey Druzhinin/Kremlin via REUTERS

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the army to carry out drills designed to increase its readiness to fight the novel coronavirus if necessary, the Defence Ministry said on Wednesday.

The number of recorded coronavirus cases in Russia reached 658 on Wednesday, a day after the mayor of Moscow told Putin that the real scale of the problem in the capital far exceeded the official figures.

The Defence Ministry said in a statement that the drills, to be carried out from March 25-28, would include specialist medical units and nuclear, biological and chemical protection troops.

Reporting by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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