Russia launched what it called its largest ever military drills, with hundreds of thousands of troops taking part along with Chinese soldiers in a show of force Nato condemned as a rehearsal for "large-scale conflict."
President Vladimir Putin was expected to attend the games yesterday after hosting an economic forum in Russia's far eastern city Vladivostok where his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping is one of the prominent guests.
The week-long war games dubbed "Vostok-2018"(East-2018) "have kicked off" in far eastern Russia, the defence ministry said. Taking part in the drills are around 300,000 soldiers, 36,000 military vehicles, 80 ships and 1,000 aircraft, helicopters and drones. Some 3,500 Chinese troops will take part in the games.
Putin praised Russia's increasingly close ties with China as he met with Xi at the economic forum in Vladivostok yesterday.
Xi for his part said the two countries' "friendship is getting stronger all the time.”
The military exercises come at a time of 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 war games. But Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said these exercises are even larger.