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Russia, China, SCO member states start large-scale drills

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A handout photo made available by Russia’s military shows two Changhe Aircraft Industries Corp. Z-10 combat helicopters of the Chinese army landing at an airport of Cheliabinsk, Russia on September 6. (Photo by EPA)

Russia, China, and other member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) have started large-scale military exercises on the Russian soil.

The maneuvers, known as Tsentr-2019, started on Monday in Orenburg, south of Russia's Urals in an area near Kazakhstan, and will culminate in the deployment of 128,000 soldiers carrying or working with 20,000 military equipment or weapons. The drills also include a total of 600 military aircraft and 15 warships.

For six days, troops representing Central Asian states, India and Pakistan are to carry out training in Astrakhan Oblast, the North Caucasus region of the Russian republic of Dagestan, Chelyabinsk Oblast, the Siberian Altai and Kemerovo.

According to the Russian defense ministry, the troops participating in the drills include those of China, India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.  

The exercises are conducted with the aim of preparing to fight international terrorism and protecting the strategic Central Asia region.

The Tsentr-2019 may be the first of its kind that involves multilateral forces in Russia and includes cooperation between archrivals India and Pakistan.

This week, the drills are to take place in two stages, with "massive offensive drills" to be held in the second or final phase.

A similar exercise, Tsentr-2015, involved only the participation of Kazakhstan, 95,000 troops, and fewer than 10,000 pieces of military equipment or weapons.

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