Russian President Vladimir Putin (L), Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (C) and General of Army Valery Gerasimov (R) attend Russia's biggest military maneuvers, the Vostok 2018 (East 2018), on the military range Tsogol, Zabaykalsky Kray, Russia, 13 September 2018. The exercises are the biggest since the 1981 military exercises and involve forces of two military districts (central and far east) including 297,000 military servicemen, more than 1,000 different military aircrafts, up to 36,000 tanks, armoured personnel carriers (APCs) and other vehicles, plus 80 warships. Army forces from China and Mongolia will take part in the exercises. The Vostok 2018 exercises run from 11 to 17 September in Russia's Far East. EPA/ALEXEY NIKOLSKY/SPUTNIK

TSUGOL: President Vladimir Putin on Thursday visited Russia’s largest-ever military drills in eastern Siberia, where he said Moscow planned to strengthen the country’s armed forces.

Russia has said the Vostok-2018 exercises involve nearly 300,000 troops and all types of military equipment, as well as the participation of the Chinese and Mongolian armies.

Putin praised the “mastery” of the Russian army and its “capacity to face down potential threats” after watching the drills at the Tsugol military training ground near the borders with Mongolia and China.

Some 25,000 soldiers, 7,000 vehicles as well as 250 helicopters and planes took part in the simulated aerial and ground attack from an “undefined” enemy.

“Out duty to our country is to be ready to defend our sovereignty, our security and our national interests and, if we must, to support our allies,” the president said following a huge military parade after the manoeuvres.

“This is why we will continue to strengthen our armed forces, to provide them with cutting edge arms and equipment and develop our international military partnerships,” he said.

“Russia is a peaceful country. We do not have and we cannot have any plans for aggression.”

The exercises in the far east continue until September 17.

Russia has said the drills are purely defensive in nature but NATO has condemned them as a rehearsal for “large-scale conflict.”

According to the Russian army, 87 observers from 59 countries were present for the Russian-Chinese exercises. --AFP

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