Russia to hold biggest military drills since Cold War

Russia's Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu delivers a speech during the annual international military-technical forum "ARMY" at Patriot Expocentre in Moscow Region, Russia on August 21, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 28 August 2018
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Russia to hold biggest military drills since Cold War

  • The exercise will involve almost 300,000 troops, over 1,000 military aircraft, two of Russia’s naval fleets, and all its airborne units
  • It will be the biggest military exercise since 1981

MOSCOW: Russia will flex its military muscles and hold the biggest war games since the Cold War era next month, including almost 300,000 troops and 1,000 aircraft, the defense ministry said Tuesday, leading NATO to warn of a “more assertive Russia.”
The Vostok-2018, or East 18, exercises simulating large-scale warfare, which the Kremlin called “justified,” will be carried out from September 11 to 15 in the country’s east, with troops from China and Mongolia also taking part.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the exercises would be similar in size to those held in September 1981 by the Soviet authorities, called Zapad-81, or West 81.
Those were unprecedented at the time in terms of the number of troops and military hardware, with around 100,000 troops involved, Russian television reported.
“This will be something of a repeat of Zapad-81, but in some senses even bigger,” Shoigu said in comments reported by Russian news agencies.
The war games come as Russia is hit by the latest round of US sanctions and faces even harsher ones over its alleged role in a nerve agent attack in Britain, with relations with the West at their lowest ebb since the Cold War.
NATO spokesman Dylan White said that since Vostok-2018 would take place east of the Ural mountains, Moscow was not obliged to notify the West or invite observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, although an invitation had been extended to military attaches.
The planned drill showed “a more assertive Russia, significantly increasing its defense budget and its military presence,” White said.
Meanwhile Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov defended the drills telling journalists that spending state funds on the country’s defense capabilities was “justified, necessary and the only option,” despite the country’s economic problems.

Defense minister Shoigu said the drills would be “on an unprecedented scale both in terms of the area covered and in terms of the numbers” of military forces.
“More than 1,000 aircraft, almost 300,000 troops and almost all the firing ranges of the Central and Eastern military districts” would be involved, he said.
“Imagine 36,000 pieces of military equipment moving together at the same time — tanks, armored personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles. And all of this, of course, in conditions as close to combat as possible.”
Russian troops underwent snap checks of their combat-readiness last week and Russia has already sent around 30 fighter planes to aerodromes in eastern Siberia, the defense ministry said.
Chinese troops have also begun arriving by train with their equipment in the region east of Lake Baikal, the ministry said.
Under President Vladimir Putin, Russia has massively upgraded its military equipment and modernized the armed forces, which have demonstrated their increased strength in operations in Syria in support of President Bashar Assad.
While having a practical purpose of testing military skills, drills are also designed to show a country’s potential opponents how it could behave in a real conflict situation.
Moscow said last year’s Zapad-2017 military drills, conducted in ally Belarus and western regions of Russia, had roughly 12,700 troops taking part, raising eyebrows in neighboring NATO members Poland and the Baltic states.
NATO claimed Russia could have been massively under-reporting the scale of the exercises, which some of the alliance’s eastern members said involved more than 100,000 servicemen.
In 2015, Russia held drills involving 80,000 troops in regions spanning the country from the Arctic in the far east to the southern Caucasus.
A year later it held spectacular land, sea and air exercises in Crimea, annexed by Moscow from Ukraine in 2014.
 


India scion Priyanka Gandhi lambasts Modi on home turf

Updated 5 min 36 sec ago
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India scion Priyanka Gandhi lambasts Modi on home turf

  • Priyanka Gandhi wrapped up a pre-election boat tour along the Ganges river on Wednesday, disembarking in Narendra Modi's home constituency

VARANASI, INDIA: The newest star in India's Nehru-Gandhi dynasty wrapped up a pre-election boat tour along the Ganges river on Wednesday, disembarking in Narendra Modi's home constituency to attack the prime minister's record.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, sister of Rahul Gandhi who wants to unseat Modi in elections starting on April 11, announced her long-awaited entry into politics in January, bolstering the hopes of the opposition Congress party, which has been dominated by her family for generations.
Their father was Rajiv Gandhi, assassinated in 1991, their grandmother Indira Gandhi, killed by her Sikh bodyguards in 1984, and their great-grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister.
Arriving after her three-day cruise in Varanasi, the northern holy city famous for its riverside cremations where Modi stood for election in 2014, Priyanka said people must stand up against his "anti-people" policies.
"You can bring about a change. You must raise your voice for a new government who will make policies for you and understand your problems," the 47-year-old said.
"The farmers of this country are suffering. He is neck-deep in debt and is committing suicide. He does not get seeds and fertilisers on time, he is not getting the right price for his produce," she added.
The opposition has been targeting Modi's right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over a lack of jobs, slowing growth and the desperate situation of farmers in the lead-up to the gargantuan election which ends May 19.
The centre-left Congress party, which has ruled India for about half a century since the country became independent in 1947, was thrashed by the BJP five years ago, with Modi promising to create jobs, stamp out corruption, and bring "Achhe Din" ("Good Days").
Modi's party however has been boosted after India and arch-rival Pakistan lurched alarmingly close to war last month following a suicide bombing in Kashmir that killed 40 Indian troops.
Priyanka, who for years resisted calls to enter politics, launched her campaign in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh on Monday, hopping on to a motorboat on the Ganges river, which is considered sacred by the country's majority Hindu community.
The state is a part of the Hindi "cow belt" heartland of some 475 million people — nearly as many as the United States, Canada and Mexico combined — where the BJP has its core support base.