Thursday, February 2News That Matters

Russia joined by China for biggest 'war games' since Soviet era

Agne Gaidyte, news reporter

Russia has started its biggest “war games” since the end of the Soviet Union, which are said to involve almost 300,000 troops, more than 1,000 aircraft, 36,000 tanks and military vehicles, and dozens of warships.

The huge week-long exercise, called Vostok 2018, is being held in eastern Siberia near the border with China, and also includes the Chinese army.

Beijing is sending about 3,200 troops, 900 combat vehicles and 30 aircraft to join the drills at a firing range.

It is being seen as a significant deployment that reflects its shift towards a full-fledged military alliance with Russia. Mongolia also has sent a military contingent.

NATO has criticised the drills as a rehearsal for a “large-scale military conflict”.

The show of military power includes Russia’s Iskander missiles, which can carry nuclear warheads, as well as its Su-34 and Su-35 fighter planes.

The wargames are going on for a week 1:00
Video: 300,000 troops in Russia's 'war games'

Image: Russian soldiers will be joined by some from Mongolia and China

Convoys of military vehicles rolled through the countryside after being transported to the remote area by rail.

Dozens of helicopters and planes also took to the skies and ships moved into position off the coast.

Image: Scores of warplanes are involved, including Su-34 and Su-35 jets

Image: NATO says the event is a rehearsal for a 'large-scale military conflict'

Eighty warships are taking part and the Russian fleet is deploying several frigates equipped with Kalibr missiles – the same type that been used in Syria.

Some of the first exercises will revolve around anti-aircraft technology, according to Russia’s defence ministry.

Image: Helicopter gunships also took to the skies in Siberia

The last war games in the east of Russia were in 2014
Image: The last war games in the east of Russia were in 2014

“Massive” mock airstrikes and missile defence procedures will then take place on Thursday, said Chief of Staff General Valery Gerasimov.

The most intense exercises will be held in the Tsugol range, about 90 miles from the Chinese and Mongolian borders.

Image: Eighty warships are taking part including frigates with Kalibr missiles

Russia’s defence minister Sergei Shoigu, who is overseeing the drills, said they were the biggest since a Soviet military exercise, Zapad-81 (West-81) in 1981.

NATO spokesman Dylan White said this month’s war games revealed “a more assertive Russia” which is “significantly increasing its defence budget and military presence”.

Vostok 2018 comes amid increasing tensions between Moscow and the West over Russia’s involvement in the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping
Image: Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping

President Vladimir Putin is expected to attend the war games after hosting an economic forum in Vladivostok where Chinese leader Xi Jinping is one of the guests.

The last war games in Vostok were in 2014 but were almost half of the size with 155,000 soldiers taking part.

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Last year it was held in the far west of Russia, in Zapad, along the border of Russia and Belarus.

Russia said only 12,700 troops took part, but the Baltic States said the true number was far bigger.

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