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Russia in largest war games since Soviet era

By Brad Lendon, CNN
updated 11:45 AM EDT, Tue July 16, 2013
Russian President Vladimir Putin inspects military exercises near Sakhalin Island in the Pacific Ocean, on Tuesday, July 16. Russian President Vladimir Putin inspects military exercises near Sakhalin Island in the Pacific Ocean, on Tuesday, July 16.
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War games in Russia
War games in Russia
War games in Russia
War games in Russia
War games in Russia
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • President Putin oversees games from Sakhalin island
  • 160,000 troops involved
  • Games began last Friday

(CNN) -- Russia is in the midst of its biggest war games since Soviet times, with 160,000 troops, 130 planes, 70 ships and thousands of tanks and armored vehicles participating in the country's Far East, according to media reports.

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the drills last Friday and they began that night, according to reports from the RIA Novosti news agency. Putin flew to Sakhalin island off the eastern coast to oversee the games on Tuesday, Russia's presidential press service reported.

"The main purpose of the activities is to check the readiness of the military units to perform assigned tasks and evaluate of the level of personnel's training and technical preparation as well as the level of equipment of units with arms and military equipment," the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement reported by Russian Television.

Assisted by a Russian scientist, Putin fixes a satellite transmitter to a tiger during his visit to the Ussuriysky forest reserve of the Russian Academy of Sciences in the Far East on August 31, 2008. Assisted by a Russian scientist, Putin fixes a satellite transmitter to a tiger during his visit to the Ussuriysky forest reserve of the Russian Academy of Sciences in the Far East on August 31, 2008.
Cult of Putin
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Photos: Cult of Putin Photos: Cult of Putin

"The Sakhalin part of the maneuvers was intended to simulate a response to a hypothetical attack by Japanese and U.S. forces," Konstantin Sivkov, who is retired from the Russian military's General Staff, told the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper, according to a report from the BBC.

But Russia's deputy defense minister, Anatoly Antonov, said the games were designed to "enhance the army's combat readiness" and were not directed against any specific nations, the BBC reported.

Some of the units involved in the exercises moved more than 3,000 kilometers (1,800 miles) from their bases to participate, according to the Russian media reports.

The current drills, which are expected to last through the week, are the latest in a series of snap exercises conducted by the Russian military this year, Russian Television reported. Similar drills have been conducted in the country's west, south and central military districts, the report said.

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