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Smiling Putin inspects big Far East military drills

Smiling Putin inspects big Far East military drills

Russian President Vladimir Putin (centre), Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu (left) and Chief of the General Staff of Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov oversee the Vostok-2022 military drills in Russia on Sep 6, 2022. (Photo: Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Pool via Reuters)

LONDON: Russian President Vladimir Putin was shown smiling and joking with his defence minister on Tuesday (Sep 6) as he inspected a big military exercise in Russia's far east, thousands of miles from the war in Ukraine.

The "Vostok" (East) exercises also involve troops from China and India, although it was not clear if units from those countries were taking part in the portion observed by Putin.

The Zvezda military news service showed a clip of Putin seated next to Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, both wearing military combat jackets and exchanging a joke as they listened to a phone exchange between Shoigu's deputy and the head of the general staff.

By proceeding with the four-yearly Vostok exercises, Putin appeared to be sending a signal that Russia's military is able to conduct business as usual despite the demands of the Ukraine war, where his forces have suffered heavy losses in men and equipment while being fought to a virtual standstill after occupying around a fifth of the country.

The defence ministry says the war games that began on Sep 1 involve only 50,000 troops, a fraction of the 300,000 they said took part in 2018. Western military analysts say they believe both figures are exaggerated.

On Tuesday the defence ministry released a video of the naval part of the exercise, showing Russia's Pacific Fleet practising launching Kalibr cruise missiles which it said had successfully struck a target more than 300km away.

On Monday, Russian and Chinese combat ships practised repelling an enemy air attack using air defence artillery systems. Last week warships from the two countries carried out anti-ship, anti-air and anti-submarine defence tasks in the Sea of Japan, the ministry said.

Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping declared a "no limits" partnership in February, promising to collaborate more closely against the West.

India has sent an army contingent to the drills which it says is taking part in "joint field training exercises, combat discussions and firepower exercises".

Russia is the biggest supplier of military hardware to India, which went ahead with the exercise days after the United States said it had concerns about any country holding such manoeuvres with Russia now.

Moscow says the war games also involve military contingents and observers from Algeria, Laos, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Syria and six former Soviet republics.

Source: Reuters/wt

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