Russia begins its largest ever military exercise with 300,000 soldiers

The Guardian/Agence France-Presse in Chita – Tue 11 Sep 2018

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Photo: Russian defence ministry image shows armoured personnel carriers in eastern Siberia. Photograph: AP.

Russia has launched what it has called its largest ever military drills, with hundreds of thousands of troops joining Chinese soldiers in a show of force condemned by Nato as a rehearsal for large-scale conflict.

Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, is expected to attend the exercises after hosting an economic forum in Vladivostok where his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, is a guest.

The week-long exercise, known as Vostok-2018 (East-2018) “have kicked off” in far-eastern Russia, the defence ministry said on Tuesday.

Taking part in the drills are around 300,000 Russian soldiers, 36,000 military vehicles, 80 ships and 1,000 aircraft, helicopters and drones, as well as 3,500 Chinese troops.

The Russian defence ministry released video footage of military vehicles, planes, helicopters and ships getting into position for the initial stage of the drills.

Putin talked up Russia’s increasingly close ties with China as he met Xi in Vladivostok on Tuesday. “We have trustworthy ties in political, security and defence spheres,” the Russian leader said.

Xi said the two countries’ friendship was “getting stronger all the time”.

The military exercises come amid escalating tensions between Moscow and the west over accusations of Russian interference in western affairs and conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.

The Russian army has compared the show of force to the USSR’s 1981 wargames in which between 100,000 and 150,000 Warsaw Pact soldiers took part in Zapad-81 (West-81) – the largest military exercises of the Soviet era.

But Russia’s defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, said these exercises were even larger.

“Imagine 36,000 military vehicles moving at the same time: tanks, armoured personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles – and all of this, of course, in conditions as close to a combat situation as possible,” Shoigu said.

The exercises will be held across nine training ranges and three seas: the Sea of Japan, the Bering Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk.

Nato said Vostok-2018 “demonstrates Russia’s focus on exercising large-scale conflict”.

“It fits into a pattern we have seen over some time – a more assertive Russia, significantly increasing its defence budget and its military presence,” the alliance’s spokesman Dylan White said last month.

The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, dismissed such concerns on Tuesday. “These are very important drills but they are part of routine annual work to develop the armed forces,” he said.

Moscow has increased the number of its large-scale military exercises in the Caucasus, the Baltic and the Arctic in recent years.

Read entire article here

Posted by Teri Perticone

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