Date
14 December 2018
Russia will hold its biggest military drill in more than 35 years, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu announced on Tuesday. Photo: Reuters
Russia will hold its biggest military drill in more than 35 years, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu announced on Tuesday. Photo: Reuters

Russia to hold its biggest war games since fall of Soviet Union

Russia will next month hold its biggest war games since the fall of the Soviet Union, a drill in which Chinese and Mongolian military units will also participate.

The exercise, called Vostok-2018 (East-2018), will take place in central and eastern Russian military districts and involve almost 300,000 troops, more than 1,000 military aircraft, two of Russia’s naval fleets, and all of its airborne units, Reuters reports, citing a statement from Moscow on Tuesday.

The war games would be the biggest since a Soviet military exercise, Zapad-81 (West-81) in 1981, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu was quoted as saying.

Russia’s Pacific and Northern Fleets will take part in the massive drill, with thousands of troops from China and Mongolia also joining in.

The maneuvers will take place at a time of heightened tension between the West and Russia, which is concerned about what it says is an unjustified build-up of the NATO military alliance on its western flank, Reuters noted.

The war games, which will take place from Sept. 11-15, are also likely to worry Japan, which has already complained about a Russian military build-up in the Far East.

Asked if the cost of holding such a massive military exercise is justified at a time when Russia is faced with higher social spending demands, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said such war games are essential.

When questioned if China’s involvement meant Moscow and Beijing were moving towards an alliance, Peskov said it showed that the two were cooperating in all areas.

China and Russia have taken part in joint military drills before but not on such a large scale, the report noted.

NATO spokesman Dylan White said that Russia had briefed the alliance on the planned exercise in May and that NATO would monitor it.

In other news, Russia is reported to have deployed several frigates to the Mediterranean via the Bosphorus, in what is believed to be Moscow’s largest naval buildup since it entered the Syrian conflict in 2015.

The reinforcement comes as Russia’s ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, is believed to be considering an assault on the last big rebel-held enclave, Idlib in the north.

Russia has accused the United States of building up its own forces in the Middle East in preparation for a possible strike on Syrian government forces.

On Saturday, the Admiral Grigorovich and Admiral Essen frigates sailed through Istanbul’s Bosphorus towards the Mediterranean, Reuters pictures showed.

The force includes 10 vessels, most of them armed with long-range Kalibr cruise missiles, Izvestia newspaper wrote, adding that more were on the way, and that two submarines had also been deployed.

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CG/RC

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