MOSCOW, March 7 (UPI) -- Russian media reported Friday that Russia's military has begun "large-scale air defense drills at its southern testing range of Kapustin Yar."
The commencement of air defense exercises follows the conclusion of snap combat readiness drills ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claimed the exercises were not related to Ukraine or tensions between Russia and the West concerning Crimea.
The air defense exercises, hailed by Russian officials as "the largest-ever exercise held by air defense units of the Western Military District," are being held 280 miles to the east of Ukraine's border.
Approximately 3,500 troops will be involved in the month-log exercises. A live-fire drill involving S-300, Buk-M1, and other air defense systems is scheduled for the end of the exercises.
District spokesman Col. Oleg Kochetkov remarked that "It is for the first time that all air defense units from the district, including coastal defenses of the Northern Fleet, have gathered in one place."
The Russian announcement of air defense drills follows the Pentagon's announcement on Wednesday that it will be expanding America's military presence in Poland and the Baltics.