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Russia to Hold Largest Military Exercises in Nearly 4 Decades


FILE - Soldiers conduct military exercises near Sankt Petersburg, Russia, Aug. 17, 2018.

Russia is preparing to hold its largest military drills in almost 40 years beginning Tuesday in eastern Siberia.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the five days of military exercises will include 300,000 soldiers, 36,000 military vehicles, 1,000 planes and 80 warships.

He said the drills are the largest since 1981, when the USSR was still in a Cold War with the United States.

The Russian military says the massive war games, known as Vostok-2018, are purely defensive in nature.

"The maneuvers are not directed against other countries and are in line with our military doctrine, which is defensive in character," said Valery Gerasimov, the chief of Russia's general staff.

China is planning to join the Russian military exercises for the first time, sending 3,200 troops to take part in the drills. Chinese President Xi Jinping will be in Russia this week to meet with President Vladimir Putin at an economic forum in Russia's far eastern city of Vladivostok.

The exercises are taking place at a time of heightened tensions between the West and Russia, including accusations of Russian influence in Western affairs and the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.

Relations between the West and Russia sharply deteriorated after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and a pro-Russian rebellion broke out in eastern Ukraine.

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