Russian President Vladimir Putin has attended large-scale military exercises involving Chinese forces and the militaries of several other Russia-friendly countries, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told local news agencies.
The Vostok-2022 (East 2022) joint military exercises began on September 1 and are being held amid Russia’s war in Ukraine and at a time when both Moscow and Beijing face tensions with the United States.
Putin was at the Sergeevski military range on Tuesday to meet with Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu and military chief of staff Valery Gerasimov and would observe the final phase of the military exercises, Peskov was quoted as saying.
General Gerasimov has personally overseen the drills, which involve troops from several ex-Soviet nations as well as from China, India, Laos, Mongolia, Nicaragua and Syria.
More than 50,000 soldiers and more than 5,000 units of military equipment, including 140 aircraft and 60 ships, are involved in the exercises which run until Wednesday across several training grounds in Russia’s Far East and in the waters off its eastern coast.
The exercise continues a series of joint war games by Russia and China in recent years, including naval drills and long-range bomber patrols, and showcases ties between Moscow and Beijing, which have grown stronger since Putin sent his troops into Ukraine.
Chinese defence ministry spokesperson Colonel Tan Kefei said last week that China’s participation in Vostok-2022 aims to deepen “cooperation between the militaries of the participating countries, enhance the level of strategic cooperation among all participating parties, and enhance the ability to jointly respond to various security threats”.
Similar drills were last held in 2018.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno on Monday criticized Russia for holding part of the Vostok-2022 exercises on two of four Russian-held islands claimed by Japan.
Japan calls the disputed islands the Northern Territories, which are in the Kuril Chain off Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido.
It was not clear whether China was part of the exercises on the disputed islands.
Matsuno also said Japan’s defence ministry spotted six Russian and Chinese warships firing machine guns into the Sea of Japan about 190kms (118 miles) west of Cape Kamui on Hokkaido on Saturday.
“Japan will continue to monitor the movements of these ships with serious concern, and will take all possible measures to conduct warning and surveillance activities in the waters surrounding Japan,” Matsuno said at a news conference.
China’s Ministry of National Defense said in a statement on Sunday that China participated in air, ground and naval exercises as part of the drills. It said a Chinese naval tactical team conducted joint exercises with Russia in the Sea of Japan, including one designed to destroy drifting mines.