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Russia plans military drills with China, Belarus on Far East, West borders

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)
File photo of Russian and Belarusian forces taking part in Zapad 2017 military drills near the borders of Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. (Photo by AP)

Russia plans to hold two consecutive military drills with Chinese and Belarusian forces across its eastern and western borders involving tens of thousands of troops as the three countries feel being cornered by the US and NATO. 

The first maneuvers -- dubbed Zapad-Interaction, 2021 -- are due to begin Monday at the Qingtongxia Joint Tactical Training Base in northwestern China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, Newsweek magazine reported.

The combined drills were jointly announced last week by Russian and Chinese military officials, and are set "to feature up to 10,000 personnel and various weaponry and equipment from both sides.” 

The US magazine cited a report by the official Chinese Military Online which detailed “the preliminary training of troops from Russia's Eastern Military District who have already arrived in China to meet counterparts in the People's Liberation Army Western Theater Command.”

According to the report, the upcoming maneuvers will be the two nations' fourth consecutive strategic exercise together and the first one to be held in China.

"Taking counter-terrorism and stability maintenance as the mission scenario, the 'Zapad/Interaction2021' joint exercise will see Chinese and Russian troops jointly carrying out strikes against terrorist forces in mixed groups," the Chinese military announced. 

"The special operations forces of both sides will complete the task of seizing the high ground and trench in accordance with the pre-plan, and then carry out the task of penetrating the enemy in depth," the statement added.

Beijing and Moscow have deepened their military-technical ties in recent years, and emphasized their bond over the past month as the two allies celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Sino-Russian Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation.

The Russian Armed Forces and People's Liberation Army of China will hold another joint drill next month as part of the upcoming Peace Mission 2021 exercises under the auspices of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the report said.

The maneuvers will have a counterterrorism focus, and include fellow SCO members - India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

That same month, according to the report, Russia will hold other massive military drills thousands of miles away in Eastern Europe.

Beginning on September 10, another set of maneuvers dubbed "Zapad" will take place in Belarus.

The drills are set to involve nearly 13,000 troops -- mostly from Belarus – and include 2,500 Russian forces from the Western Military District and 50 from Kazakhstan.

Belarus remains Moscow’s major ally on Russia's western border, where the administration of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has accused the US and nearby NATO members Latvia and Poland of orchestrating plots to stir unrest in the country.

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