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Russia to kick off largest drill in decades; China, Mongolia to participate

This file photo shows a Russian 2S4 Tyulpan self-propelled mortar and a T-72 B3 tank performing during the annual international military-technical forum “ARMY” in Alabino, outside Moscow, Russia, on August 23, 2018. (By Reuters)

Russia is set to kick off its largest military maneuver in almost four decades in the country’s Far East, with forces from China and Mongolia also participating.

The five-day military drill, dubbed “Vostok-2018” (East-2018), is to start on Tuesday in eastern Siberia, with the involvement of almost 300,000 Russian troops, more than 1,000 planes, drones, and helicopters, and up to 36,000 military land vehicles.

According to Russian military officials, armored personnel carriers and other vehicles, as well as up to 80 ships and other vessels will also be involved in the drill.

“Imagine 36,000 military vehicles moving at the same time: tanks, armored personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles — and all of this, of course, in conditions as close to a combat situation as possible,” said Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, trying to convey the feel of the drill.

The exercise will be conducted across four airbases, five army training grounds, and areas in the Sea of Japan, the Bering Straits, and the Sea of Okhotsk.

President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to inspect the drill later on.

He is currently hosting world leaders — including his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping — at an economic forum in Russia’s Far Eastern port city of Vladivosto.

China, Mongolia to participate

The massive drill will also involve contingents from China and Mongolia — both being Russia’s neighbors to the southeast.

According to the Chinese Defense Ministry, some “3,200 troops, and more than 900 pieces of military hardware, as well as 30 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters” will be involved in the drill with Russia.

Mongolia has not given details of its involvement.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov explained earlier that the military cooperation between China and Russia was an indication that the two were cooperating in all areas.

A boy looks through the gun sight of a bazooka next to military men at a weapon exhibition during the celebrations of “Tank’s Day” in Sertolovo Town, outside Saint-Petersburg, Russia, on September 8, 2018. (File photo by AFP)

Meanwhile, the Western military alliance of NATO has boosted its presence in Eastern Europe for the duration of the Russian drill.

Russian officials say they briefed NATO about the exercise several months ago.

NATO, a 29-member military alliance, is dominated by the United States, whose relations with both Beijing and Moscow have been fraying.

NATO has often held military maneuvers near Russia’s western borders, stationing advanced military hardware. It has also been trying to co-opt more countries from near Russia.

Those moves alarm Moscow, which takes its own measures to guarantee its security.

An annual NATO military exercise was conducted in Baltic states and Poland — neighboring Russia — in June.

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