Russian warships hold drills in Bering Sea in huge military exercise

The Vostok-2018 drills are taking place in Siberia and in the Bering Sea waters off Russia's eastern coast.

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A satellite image of armored vehicles staging during the Russian military exercise known as Vostok 2018, conducted at the Tsugol training area in eastern Russia, September 13, 2018. (Satellite image ©2018 DigitalGlobe, a Maxar company / Handout via Reuters)

MOSCOW — Russian warships held drills in the Bering Sea which separates Russia from Alaska, part of Moscow’s biggest military maneuvers since the fall of the Soviet Union, footage aired by the Ministry of Defence showed on Friday.

The Vostok-2018 (East-2018) drills, which run until Sept. 17, are taking place in Siberia and in waters off Russia’s eastern coast, involving 300,000 troops, over 1,000 military aircraft and two naval fleets.

The drills are taking place at a time of heightened tension between the West and Russia, and NATO has said it will monitor the exercise closely, as will the United States which has a strong military presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

President Vladimir Putin inspected the war games on Thursday, vowing in a speech to soldiers to strengthen the Russian army and supply it with new generation weapons and equipment.

Putin said Russia was a peaceful country ready for cooperation with any state interested in partnership, but that it was a soldier’s duty to be ready to defend his country and its allies.

The Ministry of Defence aired footage on Friday of the Northern Fleet’s Vice-Admiral Kulakov destroyer and the Alexander Obrakovsky landing ship taking part in a mock-up rescue operation in the Bering Sea.

Other footage showed scores of paratroopers leaping from a plane and descending from helicopters by ropes in the eastern Siberian territory of Zabaikalsk.

The ministry also broadcast clips of missiles being launched from its S-300 long-range surface-to-air missile system and its Buk medium-range missile system.

Reporting by Tom Balmforth.