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Russia holds biggest war games since Soviet era

President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday watched Russia’s biggest military maneuvers since Soviet times, involving 160,000 troops and about 5,000 tanks across Siberia and the far eastern region in a massive show of the nation’s resurgent military might.

Dozens of Russia’s Pacific Fleet ships and 130 combat aircraft also took part in the exercise, which began on Friday and continue through this week. Putin watched some of the drills on Sakhalin Island in the Pacific, where thousands of troops were ferried and airlifted from the mainland.
Russia’s deputy defence minister Anatoly Antonov assured foreign military attaches on Monday that the exercise was part of regular combat training and wasn’t directed against any particular nation, though some analysts believe the show of force was aimed at China
and Japan.

Konstantin Sivkov, a retired officer of the Russian military’s General Staff, told the daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta that the Sakhalin part of the maneuvers was intended to simulate a response to a hypothetical attack by Japanese and US forces.

Russia and Japan have a dispute over a group of Pacific islands, which Russia calls the Kurils and Japan calls the Northern Territories. The islands off the northeastern tip of Japan’s Hokkaido Island were seized by Soviet troops in the closing days of World War II. They are surrounded by rich fishing grounds and are believed to have offshore oil and natural gas reserves and other mineral resources.

Antonov said that Russia had warned its neighbors about the exercise before it started, and provided particularly detailed information to China in line with an agreement that envisages a mutual exchange of data about military activities along the 4,300-kilometer (2,700-mile) border.

The two Cold war-era rivals have forged what they described as a ‘strategic partnership’after the 1991 Soviet collapse, developing close political, economic and military ties in a shared aspiration to counter US power around the world. Russia has supplied sophisticated weapons to China, and the neighbors have conducted joint military drills.
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