MOSCOW, May 26 (UPI) -- Russia began a four-day military exercise involving 12,000 troops and as many as 250 combat aircraft, in a show of combat readiness.
The exercises began Monday in the Komi Republic, east of Moscow in northwestern Russia. The Russian Defense Ministry described it as a "massive surprise inspection" to test combat worthiness. Aircraft will test cruise missile capability against "an imaginary enemy," a report by the Russian news agency Tass said, adding nearly 700 units of "various weapons and military equipment" will be involved.
Tass referred to the drills as a "surprise combat readiness check," to "assess capabilities of the Air Force and air defense forces of the Central Military District to fulfill tasks to destroy an enemy."
The exercises coincide with the "Arctic Challenge Exercise," a fighter jet exercise this week of nearly 100 planes and 4,000 troops in sub-Arctic Scandinavia. Several NATO countries are among 28 countries participating.
"We are concerned by the size, scale and frequency of Russia's snap exercises," a NATO official told CNN. "Three of them (prior exercises) have included over 80,000 troops. Some of them have been used to deploy troops to annex Crimea, mass forces on Ukraine's border and support the separatists."
She added NATO typically announces its large-scale military drills months in advance, noting "NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg discussed the importance of transparency and predictability in military activities with Russia Foreign Minister (Sergei) Lavrov last week."