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Putin fires Pacific fleet admiral after military drills flopped

Russian President Vladimir Putin fired one his top admirals in charge of the Pacific Fleet following military drills that were supposed to showcase Russia’s power against the West. Admiral Sergei Avakyants, 66, the commander of his Pacific Fleet was fired as the military drills were still underway.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Trutnev confirmed the move.

The firing of Avakyants is a sign the Russian leader was left unhappy with the outcome of the drills so far, despite hailing the performance on Monday.

Avakyants had been in charge of the fleet since 2012.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu reported to Putin that the exercise that began Friday involves 167 warships, including 12 submarines, 89 aircraft and 25,000 troops.

As part of the drills, Russia’s nuclear-capable long-range strategic bombers will “fly over the central part of the Pacific Ocean to imitate strikes against groups of enemy ships,” Shoigu said.

Speaking during Monday’s meeting with Shoigu, Putin praised the navy’s “high level” performance and said that similar drills should be held in other areas.

The Defence Ministry has declared that sectors in the southern part of the Sea of Okhotsk, the Peter the Great Bay of the Sea of Japan and the Avacha Bay on the southeastern coast of the Kamchatka Peninsula would be closed to sea and air traffic for the duration of practice torpedo and missile launches and artillery exercises.

The ministry said that the drills were intended to “test the Pacific Fleet’s readiness to repel aggression.” The ministry described the briefing as a show of Russia’s “voluntary transparency.”

The Russian military has concentrated the bulk of its forces on the front lines in Ukraine, but has also continued conducting regular drills across Russia to train its forces and demonstrate their readiness.

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The Pacific Fleet drills started just before Chinese Defence Minister Gen. Li Shangfu arrived in Russia on Sunday and met with Putin, who hailed close ties between Moscow and Beijing.

Li’s talks with Shoigu would focus on “prospects of bilateral defence cooperation and acute issues of global and regional security,” the Russian Defence Ministry said.

On Friday, Shoigu noted that the scenario for the manoeuvres envisages a response to an adversary’s attempt to make a landing on Sakhalin Island and the southern Kuril Islands.

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Japan asserts territorial rights to the Kuril Islands, which it calls the Northern Territories.

The Soviet Union took them in the final days of World War II, and the dispute has kept the countries from signing a peace treaty formally ending their hostilities.

Last year, Russia announced it had suspended peace talks with Japan to protest Tokyo’s sanctions against Moscow over its action in Ukraine.

Russia has built up its military presence on the islands in recent years, deploying advanced fighter jets, anti-ship missiles and air defence systems there.

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