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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Regional Strife Eclipses Foreign Threat

President Boris Yeltsin told military chiefs Friday that regional conflicts, not aggression by foreign powers, posed the main threat to Russian security, Itar-Tass reported.

"The threat of major military aggression against Russia remains in the realm of theory, but the danger of regional conflicts exists," Itar-Tass quoted Yeltsin as saying.

But he said the Kosovo crisis had shown how difficult international relations could become despite the end of the Cold War. Russia fiercely opposed NATO's 78-day bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.

The government is fighting a wave of lawlessness and violent crime in the North Caucasus region, which includes breakaway region of Chechnya.

Yeltsin was addressing a gathering of senior military and security officials at the Defense Ministry called to review Russia's recent military exercises, code named "West 99," in which Russian troops practiced repelling an attack launched from Europe.

The exercises last month were the largest since 1985 and involved top military officials across European Russia. Moscow denied any direct link between the exercises and the Yugoslav crisis.

During the exercises two Russian bombers approached NATO member Iceland's air defenses and were escorted around the island by U.S. fighter jets, prompting Washington to say Moscow was trying to test U.S. military reflexes.

The aircraft remained in international airspace and the Russian air force denied any wrongdoing.

Officials attending Friday's meeting included Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev, Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo, Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, the head of the armed forces' general staff Anatoly Kvashnin and Vladimir Putin, secretary of the advisory Security Council.