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Amid tensions with West, Russia kicks off large-scale military drills in Far East

50,000 soldiers, 140 aircraft and 60 ships participating in Vostok 2022 exercises held jointly with several of Russia’s neighbors, as well as Syria, India and key ally China

In this photo released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, Chinese troops line up (march) during the Vostok 2022 military exercise at a firing range in Russia's Far East, Aug. 31, 2022. (Vadim Savitsky/Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)
In this photo released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, Chinese troops line up (march) during the Vostok 2022 military exercise at a firing range in Russia's Far East, Aug. 31, 2022. (Vadim Savitsky/Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

MOSCOW — 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 standoff 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 airstrikes 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.

In this handout photo taken from video released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Aug. 29, 2022, Chinese soldiers arrive to the Grodekovo railway station to participate in war games drills, in Grodekovo, Primorsky Krai, Russia. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

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.

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