Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has ordered the Russian Navy’s Northern Fleet and paratrooper units on full alert, state media report, in response to aggressive anti-Russian NATO drills held in Poland.
Putin issued the order as part of snap military drills, RIA news agency cited Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu as saying on Monday.
The report added that around 40,000 servicemen, 41 warships, 15 submarines as well as 110 airplanes and helicopters are set to take part in the exercises.
The Northern Fleet is a unit of the Russian Navy tasked with defending the northwestern part of the country. The fleet’s headquarters is located in the town of Severomorsk in Murmansk oblast.
The exercises come as NATO plans to expand its military presence in Eastern Europe amid the crisis in Ukraine.
The Western military alliance has held numerous war games over the past year. In 2014, NATO forces held some 200 military exercises, with the alliance’s General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg having promised that such drills would continue.
NATO launched a multinational naval drill in the Black Sea near the Crimean Peninsula on March 10. The war games involved NATO naval rapid reaction forces and saw the participation of the USS Vicksburg, a US guided missile cruiser, as well as vessels from six other participating states, Canada, Germany, Italy, Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey.
Shoigu also said on Monday that due to the new threats to Russia’s security, the country has been forced to increase its military capabilities.
“New challenges and threats to military security demand that the armed forces further boost their military capabilities,” RIA quoted him as saying.
Moscow has repeatedly condemned NATO’s exercises and military buildup toward its borders.
Relations between Moscow and the West have strained since the start of the conflict in Ukraine’s east as the US and NATO have accused Moscow of involvement in the turmoil there and have imposed a series of sanctions against Russian and pro-Russia figures. Moscow, however, rejects the accusation.
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