Russia’s military forces have begun a large exercise involving around 250 aircraft and 12,000 service personnel, according to its defence ministry.The ministry described the four-day drill as a “massive surprise inspection”, to check combat readiness.
The tests began on the same day as Nato and some of its partners started an Arctic training exercise.
Russia’s actions in Ukraine and incursions into Western airspace have led to rising tensions with the West.
According to reports on the Russian agencies Interfax and Tass, the inspection of the aviation group and air defence forces in the central military district involves almost 700 weapons and pieces of military hardware.
During the exercise, Russia’s long-range aircraft are due to carry out cruise missile strikes on practice targets in the Komi republic.
The Dailyreleased Caroline Wyatt, in Moscow, says the current drills are in preparation for a larger exercise known as Center-2015 in the next few months.
Asked about Russia’s assertiveness in a TV interview, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin joked that “tanks don’t need visas”.
The outspoken politician is himself on EU and US blacklists as part of sanctions following Russia’s annexation of Crimea last year, limiting his travel options.