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The five-day military exercise known as the Vostok-2018 drills in Russia's eastern and central military districts has mobilized nearly a third of the country's soldiers, making it the largest Russian or Soviet military exercise since 1981, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in a statement last month.

Russia's Ministry of Defense said that 300,000 troops will participate in the exercise called Vostok ("East") 2018, that is taking place in the country's far east, close to Mongolia and China.

- According to the Russian defence ministry, 36,000 tanks, armoured personnel carriers and armoured infantry vehicles will take part in Vostok-2018, from 11 to 17 September.

But Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed such concerns.

Will President Putin be involved?

As with the large-scale exercises Russian Federation held a year ago on its western border, Vostock is viewed as meant to simulate a major conflict with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces.

Besides their size, the drills have attracted attention because of the participation of Chinese troops, the first time they have been invited by Russian Federation to take part in an exercise of this scale.

The military exercises come at a time of escalating tensions between Moscow and the West over accusations of Russian interference in western affairs and ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.

The Russian army is rolling out all of its latest additions for the event: Iskander missiles that can carry nuclear warheads, T-80 and T-90 tanks and its recent Su-34 and Su-35 fighter planes.

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Warships equipped with Kalibr missiles, which have been deployed in Syria, will also play their part in the drill as forces are tested in real combat conditions.

NATO Spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said that the training "fits into a pattern we have seen over some time: a more assertive Russian Federation, significantly increasing its defense budget and its military presence".

He noted that China feels that the Washington's hostile attitude and actions, such as deploying the THAAD missile defense system in South Korea, relieve it of any need to take US views into consideration when deepening strategic trust with Moscow.

Given the declining and increasingly acrimonious state of relations since Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014, Putin "wishes to be as best prepared as possible to prevail in open warfare as well", Giles added.

"The [Vostok 2018] exercise sends a signal to Washington and its allies - if U.S. continues to push [Russia and China], they will have to deepen military ties", he said.

Part of Russia's response has been to increase the number of large-scale military exercises across the globe in an apparent bid to project power and ward off perceived Western aggression.

The war games are held a year after Russian Federation staged major drills in the country's west last September, unnerving neighbouring former Soviet republics.

Last month, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia's "ability to defend itself in the current global situation which is often aggressive and unfriendly to our country is justified, essential and without alternative".


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