Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu has announced the largest military exercise since 1981, involving roughly 300,000 soldiers and 36,000 units of ground equipment, RBC news agency reports.
Speaking to reporters in Abakan, Shoygu said that the Vostok 2018 (“East 2018”) drills will be held from 11 to 15 September, and will be the largest since 1981.
“In some way they repeat ‘Zapad-81’, but in some way, perhaps, they are even larger in scale,” Shoygu commented. According to him, the drills will be held at nearly all training grounds in the central and eastern military districts. The Pacific and North Fleets will take part, as well as the Airborne Forces.
Shoygu also said that the exercise will simulate conditions as close as possible to real combat.
The Zapad-81 (“West-81”) drills mentioned by the Russian defense minister were held in September 1981 in Belarus, the Baltics, and in Ukraine. At the time, tens of thousands of Soviet soldiers rehearsed moving into neighboring Poland. Three months after the drills, martial war was declared in Poland, with the Military Council of National Salvation being formed under the chairmanship of Wojciech Jaruzelski. Jaruzelski later explained that he imposed martial law in order to prevent an invasion by the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact.
In April, Russia held military drills in annexed Crimea, in which the Russian military practiced detecting enemy ships. Since the annexation of the peninsula in 2014, Russia has conducted military exercises there on a regular basis. The Ukrainian General Staff asserts that the Russian drills are illegal.