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Putin says will strengthen army at military drills

AFP logoAFP 9/13/2018
The exercise on the Telemba military training ground -- about 130 kilometres (81 miles) north of the city of Chita in Siberia -- involved over 1,000 troops and over 500 pieces of military equipment © Provided by AFP The exercise on the Telemba military training ground -- about 130 kilometres (81 miles) north of the city of Chita in Siberia -- involved over 1,000 troops and over 500 pieces of military equipment

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.

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