Russia plans big military drills next month in the country’s east

Russia plans big military drills next month in the country’s east

Russia plans to hold strategic military exercises in the east of the country starting next month, the defence ministry has said, thousands of miles from the war it is waging in Ukraine.

The “Vostok” (East) exercises will take place from August 30 to September 5.

They appear intended to send a message that Russia, despite its costly five-month war in Ukraine, remains focused on the defence of its entire territory and capable in military terms of sustaining “business as usual”.

In a statement, the ministry emphasised that its capacity to stage such drills was unaffected by what it calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

It said Russia had not cancelled any training activities or international cooperation, and the exercises would be supplied with all necessary personnel, weapons and equipment.

“We draw your attention to the fact that only a part of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation is involved in the special military operation [in Ukraine], the number of which is quite sufficient to fulfil all the tasks set by the Supreme Commander-in-Chief,” the statement said.

Some foreign media were spreading false information about “some kind of alleged mobilisation activities”, it added.

Despite Russia’s heavy losses and slow progress in Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin has not ordered a mobilisation of the country’s reserves, estimated to number some two million people with military service within the past five years.

Without disclosing details, the ministry said the number of troops operating in Ukraine is “quite sufficient for fulfilling the tasks” and emphasised that the military hasn’t cancelled any of the planned drills.

Moscow hasn’t said how many of its million-soldier military are involved in action in Ukraine.

United States CIA Director William Burns said last week that the US estimated 15,000 Russian troops had been killed in Ukraine since February – as many deaths as the Soviet army sustained in a decade of war in Afghanistan from 1979 – and three times that many may have been wounded.

The upcoming exercises will take part in the eastern military district, which includes part of Siberia and has its headquarters in Khabarovsk, near the Chinese border.

Russia’s defence ministry said the exercise will involve troops on manoeuvres at 13 firing ranges of the Eastern Military District.

It added that units of airborne troops, long-range bombers and military cargo planes will also be involved in the war games.

They will include some foreign forces, the ministry said, without specifying from which countries. Troops from Armenia, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia took part in major exercises in Russia and Belarus last year.