Russia Sends Marines Near North Korea Border for Live-Fire, Armored-Vehicle Drills

After practicing landing on the beachhead of Russia’s only region that borders North Korea last week, the country’s marines will now go on a live-fire drill there, the Russian Defense Ministry announced Monday.

Around 1,000 naval infantry from Russia’s Pacific Ocean Fleet have been charged with mastering land warfare vehicles in far-eastern Kamchatka and Primorye, which contains the sole 11-mile border with the rogue state.

The marines sent to Kamchatka will practice driving armored personnel carriers, while those sent to the two training ranges in Primorye have already begun practicing ground combat with handheld arms, the ministry said in a statement. One of the ranges, Bamburovo, appears to be only 70 miles from the border.

Read more: North Korea is bluffing with claims it has whole of U.S. in missile range, says Russian senator

Russia has retained an ambiguous role in the growing rift between North Korea and the U.S. over Pyongyang’s expanding nuclear program. On one hand, Moscow has long opposed the North’s nuclear ambitions on principle and supported recent sanctions on the regime brokered through the United Nations. On the other hand, Russia is now laying the blame for the regime’s commitment to nuclear arms on the U.S.

12_04_Russian_marines Russian marines practice fire at a training range in the country's East Military District. Russian Federation's Ministry of Defense

Top Russian officials repeatedly insisted that the Kremlin was against a military resolution to the conflict, and last week the head of the country’s Security Council said the world “must not allow” war on the Korean peninsula to reignite. However, Nikolai Patrushev, the Kremlin’s top security adviser, said Russia was preparing to defend itself in case the situation on its borders escalated into conflict.

“We find ourselves practically on the border with them,” Patrushev said Friday. “If there are military actions, and you know that some countries have not ruled them out, then there can be many various problems caused, including for us as well. ...This will not be something unanticipated by us.”

Patrushev did not specify how Moscow was preparing, but its training schedule in the Russian Far East may be related to that.

The landing operation in Primorye last week was one of many run by the military in the region since the peak of North Korea’s nuclear tests this year and the resulting diplomatic fallout. Russia’s elite paratroopers have practiced jumps there, the air force has drilled bombing abilities and the navy has even hosted joint drills with Indian forces.

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