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Russian president Vladimir Putin visited his country’s largest war games since 1981 on Thursday, and pledged to strengthen and re-arm the country’s forces.
More than 300,000 soldiers from Russia and China are taking part in the land, air and sea exercises this week, in a show of strength and friendship between Moscow and Beijing.
The exercises, which are taking place in Siberia, Russia’s far east and on its Pacific coast, involve 36,000 tanks and come amid difficult relations between the west and Russia, and souring ties between China and the US.
Accepting salutes from marching soldiers and tanks flying Chinese flags, Mr Putin said Russia was a peaceful country that wanted co-operation with foreign states but needed to protect its and its allies’ sovereignty.
“Therefore, we are going to further strengthen our armed forces, supply them with the latest generations of weapons and equipment,” Mr Putin told troops.
The annual war games involve simulating attacks on enemies or repelling invasions from border countries. Analysts say that China’s participation — the first ever country not from the former Soviet Union to be invited — shows the depth of the Asian neighbours’ friendship.
“My special commendation to the servicemen of the People’s Republic of China,” Mr Putin said. “Our combat brotherhood has solid longstanding traditions.”
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