Russia

Russia's International Army Games Get Underway

China is one of 32 non-NATO countries competing in Russia's International Army Games, with the tank biathlon kicking the tournament off.

Russia's annual International Army Games have got underway with 32 nations taking part in the two-week event.

Despite NATO members being invited, no alliance nations are involved.

China, Belarus, Iran, Vietnam and Algeria are some of the countries who accepted their invite to the showcase of military might.

Mark Galeotti, writer and expert on Russian security and affairs, said the calender event represents more than simple posturing.

"They [the games] are a military Olympics," he said.

"They bring together, in a way, Russia and its friends - precisely bringing in teams from countries that you regard as your allies and whom you want to cultivate and also, obviously, sell your military kit to."

Mr Galeotti said the games also represent "Russia's relationship between military and society".

"This is a country that still has conscription, that is still trying to actually increase the proportion of its soldiers who are volunteers," he added.

"Therefore, this is a way of making the army close to the people."

Events include an airborne competition, armoured vehicle tests and a tank biathlon which is currently underway.

A tank hangs a picture during the tank biathlon event (Picture: Russian Ministry of Defence).

The first round saw teams judged on their accuracy, manoeuvre skills and synchronisation. 

The event also saw crew hang pictures and balance jugs of liquid using the end of the tank's main gun. 

A scaled-down opening ceremony was held in Patriot Park near Moscow on Sunday amid the continued worldwide coronavirus pandemic, with leader Vladimir Putin addressing those in attendance.

All participants have been COVID-19 tested and all competitions are happening in open environments.

Despite the expectation of a less "public" 2020 games, Mr Galeotti says Russia are aiming to define the coronavirus as an enemy defeated.

"There's a really key emphasis going on within Russia to try and say, 'Yes, we're aware of COVID, but we've beaten it and we've got our own vaccine over the horizon"."