Putin praises Chinese military during massive joint drill

Russian President Vladimir Putin watched a strategic joint drill with his defense minister and China’s Defense Minister Wei Fenghe in attendance on Thursday, according to Beijing.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) watched a strategic joint drill with his defense minister and China’s Defense Minister Wei Fenghe (C) on Thursday. Photo by Nikolsky Sputnik/EPA-EFE
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) watched a strategic joint drill with his defense minister and China’s Defense Minister Wei Fenghe (C) on Thursday. Photo by Nikolsky Sputnik/EPA-EFE

China’s defense ministry disclosed Friday that Wei was in Russia as an envoy of Chinese President Xi Jinping, and was leading a delegation to Russia on Wednesday and Thursday to attend the Vostok-2018, reportedly the largest joint drill in Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The training took place in Russia’s Trans-Baikal region, where the officials “inspected the troops at the Tsugol training range,” according to the defense ministry.

In a signal to Xi that Russia seeks closer ties to China, Putin reportedly praised the Chinese troops.

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China’s People’s Liberation Army deployed its Type-99 main battle tank, the ZBD-08 infantry-fighting vehicle, the WZ-9 and WZ-19 attack helicopters, Mi-171 helicopters and the JH-7A fighter-bombers, according to Beijing.

Russia’s RT reported “hundreds” of military assets rolled through the training grounds, including Russia’s BMP-2 fighting vehicles, the BTR-82, Tiger and Typhoon personnel carriers.

Nearly 300,000 soldiers took part in the training, according to reports.

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The joint observation of drills come after Xi and Putin met at the Russia-hosted Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, where the two leaders vowed closer ties.

Xi is to send Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng to Russia on Sunday through Tuesday, to discuss investments and economic cooperation, according to Xinhua.

Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Friday at a regular press briefing China-Russia ties have reached a “high point,” and the two leaders have met three times in 2018.

ByElizabeth Shim