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Russia hosts military athletes for International Army Games

Keith Walker | Lucy Taylor
August 10, 2018

A face-off between Syrian, Israeli and Iranian soldiers sounds apocalyptic, but this battlefield is a friendly one. The fourth International Army Games see real-life foes do battle in 28 events across five nations.

A tank operator with Mongolian Army's team in the semifinals of the tank biathlon
Image: picture alliance/dpa/V.Astapkovich

Since the end of July, military athletes have parachuted out of MI-8 helicopters, tanks have maneuvered through a 15-kilometer obstacle course and fighter pilots have competed in visual aerial reconnaissance and advanced flying at low altitude in competitions staged across five countries.

The International Army Games, which wrap up over the weekend, have been thrilling spectators across Russia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan and China. 

The Army Games — now in their fourth year — were founded by the Russian military in 2015. More than 20 stages have been held in the different locations.

Russia’s defense ministry invited all NATO member states to take part in the games, but apart from Greece, they stayed away.

Russian allies Syria and Iran took part in the 2018 competition as well as Israel.

Major General Alexander Peryazev told DW the event was not intended to scare Russia’s adversaries. 

These military Olympics were dreamed up just a year after relations between Russia and the West went into freefall after the annexation of Ukraine's Crimea.

The games aim to show that Moscow is not out in the cold.  

"We are showing decent results, but it is too early to talk about the final results," Russian team commander Lieutenant General Ivan Buvaltsev told DW during the tank biathlon. "Our rivals are serious, but we are prepared, and we have confidence in our team."

Mix and match

Teams of military chefs showed off their skills on the shooting range before cooking up their nation’s best dishes. "This is the Army Games. We started with the army profession, as soldiers, then after that we go to our second profession, as cooks," according to Lieutenant-Colonel Oren Shavit, who leads the Israel Defense Force kitchen team.

Inside Europe: The International Army Games

"It is the best place to meet other people, make a relationship with other countries," Shavit told DW. "We got a lot of friends from the other countries."

"We don’t show our strength, we show our level of combat training, not only Russia but all the countries taking part in the Army Games. The teams are simply happy to assign their tasks and represent their countries. There is no military subtext — only sport."

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