Near North Korean Border, Russian Marines Begin Grenade Launcher and Sniper Fire Drills

A Russian sniper takes aim during a training mission in Russia’s east. The Kremlin has vowed it will not be caught off guard if war breaks out. Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation

Russia's navy in the Pacific Ocean has sent its marines to practice their sniper skills in a live-fire drill, including grenade launchers, near the country's short border with North Korea.

As part of the Pacific Fleet's training, Russian naval infantry servicemen in the country's east were sent onto the snowy Bamburovo training range in the Primorye region—the country's only territory to border both China and North Korea—to practice combat in the adverse conditions.

The Russian Pacific Fleet endured an unprecedented uptick in service hours over last year, spending four times longer on duty at sea than initially planned. Deployments around Primorye were the chief reason for this, as Russian forces near the small border with the rogue North Korean regime have gone on drills on land, sea and in the air, in recent months.

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The Kremlin has not linked any of the drills to the peaking tension around North Korea's ongoing nuclear missile program that has prompted an exchange of threats with the U.S. Russian President Vladimir Putin's top security adviser Nikolai Patrushev has said that Moscow is ensuring Russia will be prepared to protect itself should war break out.

Russian marines in Primorye have already practiced amphibious landing in November, and this is the second ground-based warfare drill to follow it. Troops were split into two groups—snipers and grenadiers—and tasked with taking down targets of varying difficulty, while covering one another, according to a statement by the Ministry of Defense.

"In low temperature conditions, the servicemen are perfecting wintertime camouflage habits, techniques of covert deployment, preparing reserve firing positions and covering one another while moving position."

The ministry highlighted that the drill was designed to closely resemble actual combat conditions based on experience of warfare in Syria. It did not say how many troops were involved in the exercise.

Last month, around 1,000 marines practiced vehicle maneuvering in Primorye and in Kamchatka, one of Russia's easternmost regions.

Russia says it is opposed to North Korea's nuclear ambitions on principle, but public statements from Moscow officials repeatedly dwell more heavily on criticizing the U.S. for provoking the North by carrying out military drills with nearby allies Japan and South Korea. Last week, President Donald Trump accused Russia of directly seeking to undo efforts to curb the regime by helping Pyongyang flout international sanctions.