MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s entire Pacific fleet was put on high alert Friday to conduct drills such as the launch of ballistic missiles, amid heightened tensions with the West over fighting in Ukraine..
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the goal of the war games was to test the ability of Russia’s armed forces to respond to aggression.
Along with the missile launches, the drills included nuclear-capable strategic bombers and warplanes other than the Pacific Fleet’s naval aircraft, Shoigu said.
The Russian military has concentrated most of its forces on the front lines in Ukraine, but continues to conduct regular exercises across Russia to train its forces and demonstrate their readiness.
The Russian Defense Ministry released videos showing warships and submarines moving to take part in the maneuver. As part of the exercise, marine units deployed to amphibious landing craft and coastal defense missile systems moved to firing positions.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described the war games as part of regular training to “maintain the necessary level of readiness of the armed forces.”
Shoigu noted that the display of maneuvers was in response to the enemy’s attempt to land on Sakhalin Island and the South Kuril Islands.
Japan asserts territorial rights to the Kuril Islands, which it calls the Northern Territories. The Soviet Union took them in during the final days of World War II, preventing the warring nations from signing a peace treaty that would formally end their hostilities.
Russia announced last year that it was suspending peace talks with Japan in protest of Tokyo’s sanctions against Moscow over its actions in Ukraine.
Russia has built up its military presence on the islands in recent years, deploying advanced fighter jets, anti-ship missiles and air defense systems there.
Pacific Fleet exercises began just days before the scheduled trip to Moscow By Chinese Defense Minister General Li Shangfu. Shoigu and Li will discuss “prospects of bilateral defense cooperation and pressing issues of global and regional security,” the Russian Defense Ministry said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s three-day visit to Moscow Last month demonstrated the two countries’ partnership in the face of Western efforts to isolate Russia over Ukraine and gave Russian President Vladimir Putin a political boost.
Both Moscow and Beijing accuse Washington of trying to isolate them and hold back their growth as they challenge the United States for regional and global leadership.
Putin and Xi said they would increase communications between their militaries and conduct more joint sea and air patrols and exercises, but there was no indication that China would help Russia with weapons, as the United States and other Western allies fear.
Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine