Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu stated that the Vostok-2018 (“Vostok” is “East” in English) will mobilize about 300,000 troops and include the participation of thousands of Chinese soldiers as well. The Northern and Pacific fleets will add about 1,000 aircraft to participate in the drills. From TASS:
Russia’s largest maneuvers Zapad-2017 (West-2017) held last year jointly with Belarus involved about 12,700 troops. [As of] January 1, 2018, the size of the Russian Armed Forces stands at 1,902,758 personnel, including 1,013,628 servicemen.
According to the defense minister, Russia has not held maneuvers comparable by their scope with the upcoming military drills since 1981.
“In some ways, they resemble the Zapad-81 drills but in other ways they are, perhaps, even larger. Over 1,000 aircraft, almost 300,000 servicemen at almost all the training ranges of the Central and Eastern Military Districts and, naturally, the Pacific and Northern Fleets and the Airborne Force will be fully employed,” the defense minister said.The maneuvers traditionally begin with a large series of preparatory measures: about 15 special drills for troops’ logistic support. “And, as a rule, this is coupled with a snap check announced by the Russian president, the supreme commander-in-chief, which has actually become good practice in our life and work,” the defense minister said.
“Just imagine that 36,000 pieces of military hardware are simultaneously in motion: these are tanks, armored personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles and all this is, naturally, checked in conditions close to a combat environment,” the Russian defense minister said.
Vostok-2018 will be held from September 11 through 15 and they will comprise the largest event of the troops’ combat training. The maneuvers are expected to involve troops from Russia’s Eastern and Central Military Districts, the aforementioned forces of the Northern Fleet, all unites and formations of the Airborne Force, long-range and military transport aircraft and units from both China and Mongolia, Russia’s southern and southeastern neighbors.
Interestingly enough, in a parallel report, a military echelon was attacked by unidentified assailants overnight on August 21 while they were en route to the Vostok-2018 drills. The attack took place in a railway station in the Trans-Baikal region in Eastern Siberia. TASS expanded on this:
“This was an echelon of the Central Military District, which was redeploying servicemen to a training range near Chita for the Vostok-2018 drills. An investigation is underway to probe all the circumstances that led to the incident in the Trans-Baikal Region,” the source said.
A source in the Eastern Military District confirmed that the echelon had been dispatched by that district.
The press office of the Eastern Military District earlier reported that unidentified assailants had attempted an attack overnight to August 27 on the sentry of the military echelon at the Petrovsky Zavod railway station. One of the attackers was shot dead by a sentinel after making no response to a warning shot. Representatives of the Eastern Military District said that “the employment of arms by the sentinel complied with the regulations on the garrison standard operating procedures of the Russian Armed Forces.”The administration of the town of Petrovsk-Zabaikalsky on whose territory the railway station is located specified that the dead attacker born in 1989 was linked with criminal structures. On the day of the incident, he was celebrating his birthday at a cafe near the railway station. According to regional media outlets, as a result of the conflict, two soldiers were wounded.
Such large maneuvers are aimed “partly at showing our preparedness and partly to increase our actual readiness for war. The situation is bad.”
China, which has steadily tightened ties with Moscow in recent years, will contribute 3,200 troops and 30 aircraft.
“This is a new step. It’s the first time Chinese forces have been allowed in internal maneuvers, not joint ones,” said Kashin. “For the moment, there’s no sign that Russia and China are preparing a full military alliance, but on the military level, that’s what’s happening.”