Post-Soviet Rapid Reaction Force Starts Exercise

Thousands of troops from Russia and four other ex-Soviet nations are staging exercises as part of a newly formed NATO-style rapid-reaction force.

It's the first such drills for the Collective Security Treaty Organization's new miltary unit.

Kazakh defense officials say more than 7,000 troops gathered Friday in southern Kazakhstan for two weeks of exercises.

Russia and four other members _ Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan _ earlier this year agreed to set up the unit.

Moscow hopes it will bolster the power of the seven-nation CSTO, seen largely as a talking shop established by Russia to counterbalance NATO.

Officials say the exercise will, among other things, train the force in responding to insurgencies in alliance member countries.