Russia prepares for biggest war games in its history

MOSCOW (AFP) – Russia will today launch the biggest military drills in its history involving 300,000 troops as well as Chinese soldiers, in a move NATO denounced as “exercising large-scale conflict”.

The week-long deployment alongside Chinese and Mongolian armies dubbed “Vostok-2018” (East-2018) will start in eastern Siberia today.

It comes at a time of escalating tensions between Moscow and the West over accusations of Russian interference in western affairs and the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.

The Russian army has compared the show of force to the USSR’s 1981 war games that saw between 100,000 and 150,000 Warsaw Pact soldiers take part in “Zapad-81” (West-81) – the largest military exercises of the Soviet era.

But defence minister Sergei Shoigu said this time would be even larger, with 300,000 soldiers, 36,000 military vehicles, 1,000 planes and 80 warships taking part in the drills.

“Imagine 36,000 military vehicles moving at the same time: tanks, armoured personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles – and all of this, of course, in conditions as close to a combat situation as possible,” Shoigu said.

The Russian army will roll out all of its latest additions for the event: Iskander missiles that can carry nuclear warheads, T-80 and T-90 tanks and its recent Su-34 and Su-35 fighter planes.

At sea, the Russian fleet will deploy several frigates equipped with Kalibr missiles that have been used in Syria.