Russia, China, Central Asian states kick off massive drills

Russia, China and several Asian countries began conducting large-scale military exercises on Monday.

A handout photo made available by Russia’s military shows two Changhe Aircraft Industries Corp. Z-10 combat helicopters of the Chinese army landing at an airport of Cheliabinsk, Russia on September 6. Photo courtesy of Russian Ministry of Defense

The exercises that began with the drill known as “Tsentr-2019” on Monday will culminate in the deployment of nearly 130,000 soldiers and conclude Saturday, Russia’s Tass news agency reported.

Tsentr-2019 began in Orenburg, south of the Urals in Russia, in an area near Kazakhstan. For six days, troops representing Central Asian states, India and Pakistan are to carry out training in Astrakhan Oblast, the North Caucasus region of the Russian republic of Dagestan, Chelyabinsk Oblast, the Siberian Altai and Kemerovo.

Russia’s defense ministry said participating countries include China, India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. A total of 600 military aircraft and 15 warships will be included in the drills involving 128,000 soldiers carrying or working with 20,000 military equipment or weapons, Moscow said.

The exercise may be the first of its kind that involves multilateral forces in Russia and includes cooperation between archrivals India and Pakistan.

The participating countries are also members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

A similar exercise, Tsentr-2015, involved only the participation of Kazakhstan, 95,000 troops, and fewer than 10,000 pieces of military equipment or weapons. This week, the drills are to take place in two stages, with “massive offensive drills” to be held in the second or final phase.

Russia said the purpose of the training is to “cooperate with friendly forces to combat international terrorism.” Moscow also said the exercises are designed to prevent Islamic extremists from penetrating Russia through Central Asia.

Tensions have grown with the United States for Russia and China in the past year.

Moscow and Beijing have recently begun to stockpile gold, amid trade war uncertainty and concerns about the health of the global economy, Fox Business reported.

ByElizabeth Shim