Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday attended sweeping war games in his country’s far east involving troops from China and other nations, in a show of military muscle amid the tensions with the West over Moscow’s action in Ukraine.
The week-long exercise that began on Thursday is intended to showcase growing defence ties between Russia and China and also demonstrate that Moscow has enough troops and equipment to conduct the massive drills even while its forces are fighting in Ukraine.
The Russian defence ministry said that the Vostok 2022 (East 2022) exercise that runs until Wednesday at seven firing ranges in Russia’s far east and the Sea of Japan involves more than 50,000 troops and more than 5,000 weapons units, including 140 aircraft and 60 warships.
It engages troops from several ex-Soviet nations, China, India, Laos, Mongolia, Nicaragua and Syria.
As part of the manoeuvres, the Russian and Chinese navies in the Sea of Japan practised joint action to protect sea communications and support for ground forces in coastal areas.
The exercise marked the first time that China has sent forces from three branches of its military to take part in a single Russian drill, a sign of increasing close ties between Moscow and Beijing, which have grown stronger since Putin sent his troops into Ukraine on February 24.
China has pointedly refused to criticise Russia’s actions, blaming the US and Nato for provoking Moscow, and has attacked the punishing western sanctions against Russia.
The exercise continues a series of joint war games by Russia and China 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 they both are locked in rivalry with the US.
Even though Moscow and Beijing in the past ruled out a military alliance, Putin has said that such a prospect cannot be excluded.