VLADIMIR Putin today vowed to strengthen his mighty army and supply it with even more weapons as he watched Russia’s biggest war games since the fall of the Soviet Union.
The Vostok 2018 drills – taking place in eastern Siberia close to the border with China – involve 300,000 Russian troops as well as joint exercises with the Chinese army.
“This is the first time our army and fleet have undergone such a difficult and large-scale test,” said President Putin.
The exercises, that involve over a thousand military aircraft as well as up to 36,000 tanks, come amid tense relations between Russia and the West that have fallen to a post-Cold War low.
Speaking at the Tsugol firing range about 80 miles north of the border with China, Putin said Russia was a peaceful country ready for cooperation with any state interested in partnership, but that it was a soldier’s duty to be ready to defend his country and its allies.
“Therefore we are going to further strengthen our armed forces, supply them with the latest generations of weapons and equipment, develop international military partnership,” he said.
The Chinese media have described the People’s Liberation Army involvement in the drills as the country’s largest-ever dispatch of forces abroad for war games.
Russia has said it is showcasing methods developed during its military intervention in Syria, giving Chinese forces – which haven’t fought in a war since 1979 – a glimpse of real combat skills.
The five-day mock battles involve more than DOUBLE the number of recruits currently in the entire British armed forces.
NATO has already condemned the war games as a rehearsal for “large-scale conflict” – and experts say they are without doubt the largest in modern Russian history.
“It fits into a pattern we have seen over some time – a more assertive Russia, significantly increasing its defence budget and its military presence,” warned an alliance spokesman.
The Russian army has compared the show of force to the USSR’s 1981 Zapad war games that saw around 150,000 Warsaw Pact soldiers take part in the largest military exercises of the Soviet era.
Yet the drills – to take place across several training grounds – will dwarf even this notorious exercise when it comes to scale.
Military leaders released video footage of military vehicles, planes, helicopters and ships getting into position for the initial stage of the drills.
The live-fire exercise hit two drifting targets in the Sea of Okhotsk on Russia’s Pacific coast as Putin was on a trip to Siberia.
Four different types of cruise missile were used in the attack – Vulkan, Granit, Malakhit and Onyx.
They were fired from the missile cruiser Varyag – flagship of the Pacific fleet – as well as missile corvettes Razliv and Moroz, and the Tomsk nuclear powered submarine.
They were supported by the Bastion missile system fired from land and the distance of the targets was between 155 and 310 miles.
“All seven cruise missiles successfully hit the targets,” said a statement from Russia’s eastern military district.