Russia on Thursday launched large-scale military exercises involving several Kremlin-friendly countries, including China, with tensions soaring between Moscow and Western capitals.
The exercises, called Vostok-2022, are scheduled to take place until September 7 across several training grounds in Russia’s Far East and in the waters off its eastern coast.
The drills come as Russia is locked in a stand-off with Western nations over what Moscow calls its military operation in pro-Western Ukraine.
The active stage of the exercises kicked off Thursday morning with combat aircraft, anti-aircraft unit drills, and mine clearance simulations in the Sea of Japan, the Russian defense ministry said.
“Combat aviation crews will have to train in the interception of air targets… and conduct air strikes on ground targets,” the ministry said in a statement.
The ministry released images showing military aircraft taking off and flying in formation, as well as Pantsir anti-aircraft vehicles conducting maneuvers.
According to Moscow, over 50,000 soldiers and more than 5,000 units of military equipment, including 140 aircraft and 60 ships, will be involved in the drills.
Participating countries include several of Russia’s neighbors, as well as Syria, India, and key ally China.
Similar drills were last held in 2018.
Confirming its participation in the drills in August, China said the joint exercises were “unrelated to the current international and regional situation.”
Since Russia sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, Moscow has sought closer ties with countries in Africa, South America and Asia — particularly China.
Moscow was in full solidarity with Beijing during the August visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to self-ruled, democratic Taiwan, which China considers its territory.
The US State Department, however, has said that while warming ties between China and Russia undermined global security, Washington did not “read anything” into the drills.