Putin Attends Military Drills With China, Hails Beijing's "Balanced Approach" To Ukraine Crisis

President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday attended and observed the Vostok-22 Russian war games in person, held in the country's far east, as well as in waters just off the eastern coast.

Crucially, the exercises featured Chinese military participation, and others including military units from India and Syria. "According to Moscow, over 50,000 soldiers and more than 5,000 units of military equipment, including 140 aircraft and 60 ships, were to be involved in the drills," The Moscow Times writes.

Putin observing this week's Vostok large-scale drills, via kremlin.ru
Putin observing this week's Vostok large-scale drills, via kremlin.ru

This year's drills are being described as greatly scaled down compared to the largest Vostok games which took place in 2018 - which is no doubt due to Russia's concentration of forces for its invasion of Ukraine.

The ongoing drills began on Sept. 1 and are scheduled to end on Wednesday. "Putin met Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and military chief of staff Valery Gerasimov at the Sergeyevsky military range and later observed the final phase of the military exercises," The Moscow Times describes.

Putin is also in the far east to address the Eastern Economic Forum hosted in the port city of Vladivostok, where an estimated 5,000 people are in attendance for the four-day conference that kicked off Monday. The largest delegation in attendance is from China:

At the forum's plenary session Putin will be joined by China's top legislator Li Zhanshu — who ranks third in the Chinese government hierarchy — with a bilateral meeting also on the agenda.

Li will become the highest-ranking Communist party politician to travel to the country since Moscow's military intervention in Ukraine.

The Kremlin issued a statement underscoring the importance of the large Chinese presence: "Russia-China relations of comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation are developing progressively," it said before the bilateral meeting with Putin.

The statement further hailed "China's balanced approach to the Ukraine crisis" and its "understanding" of what's driving Moscow's 'special operation' in Ukraine.

In October, Russia and China held joint naval drills in the Sea of Japan. Days later, Russian and Chinese warships held their first joint patrols in the western Pacific. The next month, South Korea's military said it had scrambled fighter jets after two Chinese and seven Russian warplanes intruded into its air defense identification zone during what Beijing called regular training.

Just days before Russia's Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, Beijing and Moscow announced a "no limits" partnership, although U.S. officials say they have not seen China evade U.S.-led sanctions on Russia or provide it with military equipment. Russia's eastern military district includes part of Siberia and has its headquarters in Khabarovsk, near the Chinese border.

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