If before, China was still denying any direct support to Russia during the Ukraine-Russia war, now, they’re more open about their alliance.

Yesterday, China’s defense ministry announced that their troops will be traveling to Russia to participate in a joint military exercise called “Vostok.” The exercises will be held from Aug. 30 to Sept. 5, in the midst of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Interestingly, the Chinese defense ministry says this joint military exercise has nothing to do with the ongoing war.

“[This is] unrelated to the current international and regional situation,” the ministry said.

Soldiers of the Chinese People's Liberation Army
Soldiers of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army 1st Amphibious Mechanized Infantry Division (Source: Times Asi/Flickr)

China claimed the joint military exercise would include other countries like Tajikistan, India, Mongolia, and Belarus. This effort is reportedly part of their bilateral annual cooperation agreement with Russia.

“The aim is to deepen practical and friendly cooperation with the armies of participating countries, enhance the level of strategic collaboration among the participating parties, and strengthen the ability to respond to various security threats.”

The previous Vostok was held in 2018, where 300,000 troops were sent to Khabarovsk, a region close to the Chinese border. Military Specialist at London’s Chatham House Mathieu Boulegue said this event is “interesting” to observe.

“A lot of troops and gear from the eastern MD (military district) have already been deployed, rotated, lost and killed in Ukraine since February, so this will be interesting to see what they can salvage.”

On the other hand, Russia’s defense ministry said they would have the capacity to hold these drills even though they are conducting a “special military operation” in Ukraine.