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Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping‘s military will hold joint naval drills between Dec. 21 and 27 in the East China Sea

What Happened: Russia’s defense ministry, on Monday, said the joint naval exercises would involve missile and artillery firing in the East China Sea.

“The main purpose of the exercises is to strengthen naval cooperation between Russia and China and maintain peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region,” it said.

See Also: Zelenskyy Aide Slams Henry Kissinger’s Advice To Negotiate With Putin, Says It’s ‘Recipe’ To ‘Appease The Aggressor’

Moscow said four of its vessels would take part in the drills, including the Varyag missile cruiser, adding that six Chinese vessels would take part, along with aircraft and helicopters from both sides.

Although the Russia-China joint naval drills have been held annually since 2012, this year, the exercise holds special importance as Putin seeks to increase his country’s political, security and economic links with Xi amid the unprecedented war in Ukraine and tensions with the U.S.

China has been Russia’s key ally in an anti-West alliance as Putin blames the U.S. and the European allies for prolonging the war in Ukraine. 

The two leaders also signed a “no limits” strategic partnership just days before Russia launched a full-scale invasion in February. However, China has repeatedly expressed concerns over Russia’s actions in Kyiv.

Meanwhile, about 9,000 Russian troops, which were moved to Belarus in October to become part of a regional formation, will conduct battalion tactical exercises, Reuters reported, citing Russian Interfax news agency.

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