MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu praised military cooperation between Moscow and Beijing on Friday and suggested it could develop further, after flying to China for joint manoeuvres involving more than 10,000 troops.
The Sibu/Cooperation-2021 wargames concluding in China’s Ningxia region on Friday have been watched by other nations for signs that China and Russia are expanding military ties as they spar with the West.
“We have achieved a high level of interaction between our armed forces on land, in the air and at sea,” Shoigu said in a Defence Ministry statement. “This increase is an important trend towards further activity.”
Russia and China have conducted joint drills since 2005, but Shoigu – a close ally of President Vladimir Putin – noted that it was the first time the Russian military had taken part in an event of this kind in China.
Russia’s Kommersant newspaper this week said the drills also marked the first time Russian soldiers had used Chinese weapons.
Russia this week completed joint drills in Tajikistan with Uzbek and Tajik forces near the border with Afghanistan, where rapid advances by the Taliban as the United States withdraws its troops are creating a global security headache.
Moscow pivoted to China in 2014 as its political ties withthe West sank to post Cold-War lows over the annexation ofCrimea from Ukraine. China is Russia’s biggest trade partner.
Russian Railways this week said the first railway bridge between Russia and China, over the Amur River, would open soon, a boost for bilateral trade.
Separate Russian drills with Indian forces in the Russian city of Volgograd involving around 500 soldiers ended on Thursday, Zvezda TV said.
(Reporting by Alexander Marrow; editing by John Stonestreet)