Russia president Putin attends military exercises with Chinese forces

Participating countries include several of Russia's neighbours, as well as Syria, India and key ally China. PHOTO: AFP

MOSCOW - President Vladimir Putin attended large-scale military exercises on Tuesday involving China and several other Russia-friendly countries, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told local news agencies.

Mr Putin met Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and military chief of staff Valery Gerasimov at the Sergeevski military range and would observe the final phase of the military exercises later, Mr Peskov was quoted as saying.

The military drills, called Vostok-2022, started on Sept 1 and are due to take place until Sept 7 across several training grounds in Russia's Far East and in the waters off its eastern coast.

Similar drills were last held in 2018.

On Tuesday, Mr Putin was shown smiling and joking with his defence minister as he inspected the exercise.

The Zvezda military news service showed a clip of Mr Putin seated next to Mr Shoigu, both wearing military combat jackets and exchanging a joke as they listened to a phone exchange between the minister's deputy and the head of the general staff.

By proceeding with the four-yearly Vostok exercises, Mr Putin appeared to be sending a signal that Russia’s military is able to conduct business as usual despite the demands of the Ukraine war, where his forces have suffered heavy losses in men and equipment while being fought to a virtual standstill after occupying around a fifth of the country.

The defence ministry says the war games that began on Sept 1 involve only 50,000 troops, a fraction of the 300,000 they said took part in 2018. Western military analysts say they believe both figures are exaggerated.

On Tuesday, the defence ministry released video of the naval part of the exercise, showing Russia’s Pacific Fleet practising launching Kalibr cruise missiles which it said had successfully struck a target more than 300km away.

On Monday, Russian and Chinese combat ships practised repelling an enemy air attack using air defence artillery systems. Last week, warships from the two countries carried out anti-ship, anti-air and anti-submarine defence tasks in the Sea of Japan/East Sea, the ministry said.

Mr Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping declared a “no limits” partnership in February, promising to collaborate more closely against the West.

India has sent an army contingent to the drills which it says is taking part in “joint field training exercises, combat discussions and firepower exercises”.

Russia is the biggest supplier of military hardware to India, which went ahead with the exercise days after the United States said it had concerns about any country holding such manoeuvres with Russia now.

Moscow says the war games also involve military contingents and observers from Algeria, Laos, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Syria and six former Soviet republics. AFP, REUTERS

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