Moscow, Russia’s armed forces began the second day of its massive military exercises in the country’s far east on Wednesday with a show of strength involving anti-aircraft and missile maneuvers.
The Vostok-2018 war games, the largest staged by Russia since the Cold War, were partly held at the Soviet-built training ground in Telemba, some 200 km to the east of Lake Baikal in the heart of Siberia.
As heavy rain fell, the overcast Siberian sky filled with missiles, guided rockets and thunderous explosions in a show of strength that observers in the West will be watching eagerly.
Colonel Alexander Agafanov of the Russia Air Force described the exercises as a success.
The military arranged several artillery batteries stocked with mid to long-range S-300, S-400, Tor and Buk missiles, the likes of which Moscow has recently sold to Syria and Iran despite protests from the US and Israel.
More than a thousand soldiers took part in a hyper-realistic recreation of a theater of war and explosions interrupted the normally tranquil region, one of the few in Russia where the population is predominantly Buddhist.
Although the war games serve Moscow’s propaganda machine, officials declined to name the imagined enemy of the Russian, Chinese and Mongolian forces taking part in Vostok-2018.
Nor would they enlighten reporters as to why there was no sign of the more than 3,000 Chinese soldiers sent to the maneuvers by Beijing.
The participation of the People’s Liberation Army surprised many experts.
The display of strength from Russia comes at a time when relations between Moscow and the West are at a considerable low.
According to the Russian defense ministry, 300,000 troops, more than 1,000 aircraft and some 36,000 tanks and vehicles are involved in the maneuvers.
The Kremlin said the war games were routine and did not pose a threat to other countries.