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Russia begins military drills on Kuril Islands

Russia has begun military maneuvers on its eastern territory of Kuril Islands that will include live firing drills and involve more than 500 military personnel, the defense ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

This comes after Moscow said last month that it was expanding its military infrastructure on the disputed islands, also claimed by Japan.

The territorial dispute over some of the islands dates back to the time when the then-Soviet Union captured them at the end of World War II, keeping the two countries from signing a formal peace treaty.

Meanwhile, a contingent of Indian troops has arrived in Russia ahead of joint military exercises that will see soldiers from both nations train to combat a range of threats, including those posed by terrorist attacks, using cutting-edge hardware.

In a statement on Monday, the Russian Defense Ministry said “India’s military units will take part in the Zapad-2021 joint strategic exercise.”

“Upon arrival, military personnel from India were given Russian equipment, including T-72 B3 tanks and BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles, which they will use to participate in the main stage of the exercise,” it added.

At least 200 Indian forces are taking part in the two-week-long drills, involving forces from nine countries, including China and Pakistan.

“The exercise aims to enhance military and strategic ties amongst the participating nations while they plan and execute their drills,” Russian officials said.

Russia and China also wrapped up a five-day joint strategic military drills in Northwest China last month involving over 10,000 troops and advanced weaponry as top officials in both countries vowed further collaborations amid rising US-led provocations in eastern Europe and the Pacific.

The drills – dubbed Zapad/Interaction-2021 — began with live-fire drills on August 14, imitating an anti-terrorism operation featuring advanced Chinese J-20 stealth fighter jets and JH-7 bombers which conducted an air raid against hostile frontline command centers and air defense observation outposts, China Central Television (CCTV) reported.

During the exercise, the Chinese and Russian troops also used a specially designed joint command system for the first time, which interconnected both sides’ combat systems, enabled teleconference and allowed the transfer of combat documents, significantly boosting systematic combat efficiency.

Praising the joint military maneuvers, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that the drills could further develop cooperation between Beijing and Moscow.

He made the remarks after flying to China to observe the air, sea, and ground exercises that saw Russian forces using Chinese weaponry for the first time.

China remains Russia’s largest trade partner. Russian Railways announced this week that the first railway bridge between Russia and China, over the Amur River, would open soon, marking a further boost for bilateral trade.

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