Russia said it will launch sweeping military drills together with forces from China to show off increasingly close defence ties between Moscow and Beijing amid war in Ukraine.
The Vostok 2022 (East 2022) exercise will be held September 1-7 in various locations in Russia’s Far East and the Sea of Japan and involve more than 50,000 troops and 5,000 weapons units, including 140 aircraft and 60 warships, according to the Russian defence ministry.
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It released a video of Chinese troops arriving in Russia in preparation for the massive exercise.
The drills will be conducted at seven firing ranges in far eastern Russia and will engage troops from several ex-Soviet nations, China, India, Laos, Mongolia, Nicaragua and Syria.
The ministry said units of Russian airborne troops, long-range bombers, and military cargo planes will take part in the drills along with other forces.
While first announcing the exercise last month, the Russian military emphasised it is part of planned combat training that is continuing despite Moscow’s military action in Ukraine. It has not disclosed the number of troops engaged in what the Kremlin calls the “special military operation” there.
The ministry noted as part of the manoeuvres, the Russian and Chinese navies in the Sea of Japan will “practice joint action to protect sea communications, areas of marine economic activity and support for ground troops in littoral [coastal] areas”.
“The exercise isn’t directed against any specific countries or military alliances and is purely defensive,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Fomin said at a meeting with foreign military attaches. He specified the naval drills would take part in the northern and central part of the Sea of Japan.
The drills reflect increasing defence ties between Moscow and Beijing, which have grown stronger since Russia sent its troops into Ukraine on February 24. China has pointedly refused to criticise Russia’s action, saying the United States is the “main instigator” of the war by supporting NATO expansion and putting sanctions on Moscow.
In return, Russia has strongly backed China amid the tensions with the US after its House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s recent visit to Taiwan.
Speaking earlier this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin drew parallels between US support for Ukraine and Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan, saying both were part of alleged American efforts to foment global instability.
Russia and China have held a series of joint war games in recent years, including naval drills and patrols by long-range bombers over the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea. Last year, Russian troops for the first time deployed to Chinese territory for joint manoeuvres.
Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping have developed strong personal ties to bolster a “strategic partnership” between the former communist rivals as both Moscow and Beijing face increasing tensions with the West.
Even though Moscow and Beijing in the past rejected the possibility of forging a military alliance, Putin has said such a prospect cannot be ruled out. He also noted Russia has been sharing highly sensitive military technologies with China that helped significantly bolster its defence capability.