Moscow: Russia and Egypt will hold joint military drills involving airborne troops on Egyptian soil for the first time this month, the Russian defence 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’ combat 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.

Russia has been waging an aerial bombing campaign in Syria for the past year in support of the Syrian government, part of the multi-front war that has claimed some 300,000 lives and has seen Moscow further estranged from the West.
In Cairo, Egyptian stocks declined for a second day after Saudi Arabia called a one-month halt to a fuel aid programme, prompting concern among investors of a deeper dispute with one of the country’s key financial backers.

The Saudi decision, for which no official reason was announced, follows Egypt’s vote in the United Nations in favour of a Russian-drafted resolution on Syria that it opposed. The kingdom has provided billions of dollars in cash and oil from Saudi Arabian Oil Co, known as Aramco, over the past three years. Egypt is counting on continued support from the country to seal its bid for an International Monetary Fund loan.

“People are connecting Aramco’s decision to halt oil product supplies with Egypt’s vote at the UN Security Council and are afraid there will be problems with Saudi Arabia, who is the biggest supporter of the economy and an important ally,” Hassan Kenawi, vice-president at Cairo-based HC Brokerage, said.