Russia and Egypt will hold joint military drills involving airborne troops on Egyptian territory for the first time within days, the Russian defense ministry said on Tuesday.
“The joint Russian-Egyptian drills will happen in mid-October 2016 on the territory of Egypt,” it said, without specifying their start date.
The drills, called “Protectors of Friendship-2016”, will include 500 troops, 15 planes and helicopters and 10 military hardware units, the ministry said, describing the exercises as “anti-terrorist”.
“The airborne delivery by parachute of several Russian airborne troops’ сombat vehicles to the desert climate of Egypt will occur for the first time in history,” the ministry said.
Last year Russia and Egypt held their first-ever joint naval exercises in the Mediterranean, which included the Black Sea fleet’s flagship Moskva missile cruiser.
The decision comes a day after Russian media reported that Egypt is in talks to allow Russia use of military bases across the country, including an air base on the Mediterranean coast close to the border with Libya.
On Friday, Egypt voted in favour of a Russian-sponsored UN Security Council resolution regarding the bombardment of Aleppo.
Saudi oil supplies to Egypt have been halted since the beginning of the month, an Egyptian official told Reuters.
Egypt’s tilt toward Russia in the Syrian conflict is unlikely to have gone down well in Riyadh, a major financial backer of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
Relations between Cairo and Washington have been tense since Sisi’s military coup against Muslim Brotherhood-backed president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, when the US briefly suspended arms sales over human rights abuses.
A 2016 report commissioned by the Congressional Research Service found that between 1948 and 2015, the United States provided Egypt with $76 billion in bilateral foreign aid (not adjusted for inflation), including $1.3 billion a year in military aid from 1987 to the present.
Russia is especially keen to renovate an ex-Soviet naval base in the coastal town of Sidi Barani, which was used until 1972 to monitor US warships in the Mediterranean, Russian foreign and defense ministry sources told local daily Izvestia.
According to the source, an agreement could see the Sidi Barani base be renovated and ready for use as an air base by 2019.
— Минобороны России (@mod_russia) October 11, 2016