Russia and China to hold joint naval drills this week

Russian President Putin meets with Chinese President Xi during their meeting on the sideline of the BRICS summit in Brasilia
Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during their meeting on the sidelines of a BRICS summit, in Brasilia, Brazil, November 13, 2019. Sputnik/Ramil Sitdikov/Kremlin via REUTERS

Dec 19 (Reuters) - Russia and China will hold joint naval drills between December 21-27, Russia's defence ministry said on Monday.

The joint naval exercises, which have taken place annually since 2012, will involve missile and artillery firing in the East China Sea, Russia's defence ministry said.

"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."

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Moscow has sought to increase its political, security and economic links with Beijing and sees China's leader Xi Jinping as a key ally in an anti-West alliance.

The two countries signed a "no limits" strategic partnership just days before Moscow launched the biggest land invasion in Europe since World War Two in February, but Beijing has since expressed concerns over Russia's actions in Ukraine.

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

Russian ships set sail on Monday from the Far Eastern port of Vladivostok to take part in the week-long exercises, which start on Wednesday.

Reporting by Reuters; editing by Guy Faulconbridge

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