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Russia and China prepare for joint naval exercises

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian warships set sail Monday for joint naval exercises with China, a training showcasing the growing defense ties between the two countries, which are facing tensions with the United States.

The Russian Defense Ministry reported that the Varyag missile cruiser, the destroyer Marshal Shaposhnikov and two corvettes from Russia’s Pacific Fleet will take part in exercises in the East China Sea from Wednesday.

The ministry said the Chinese navy plans to deploy several surface-designed warships and a submarine for the exercise. Russian and Chinese aircraft will also take part in the drills, according to the ministry.

Moscow and Beijing have exhibited increasing military cooperation in recent months.

In November, Russian Air Force Tu-95 bombers and Chinese H-6K bombers conducted joint patrols over the Sea of ​​Japan and East China Sea. As part of the exercises, Russian bombers landed in China for the first time and Chinese bombers flew to an airbase in Russia.

In September, China sent more than 2,000 soldiers and more than 300 military vehicles, 21 fighter jets and three warships for a sprawling joint exercise with Russia. The drills marked the first time China had sent forces from three branches of its military to participate in a Russian drill, in what was hailed as a sign of the deep mutual trust that exists between China and Russia.

Defense cooperation between Moscow and Beijing has strengthened since Russian President Vladimir Putin sent his troops to Ukraine on February 24.

China, which has declared an “unlimited” friendship with Russia, has refused to criticize Moscow’s actions, blaming the United States and NATO for provoking the Kremlin, and has lashed out at sanctions on Russia.

Russia, in return, has strongly backed China amid tensions with the United States over Taiwan.

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