MOSCOW, June 1 (UPI) -- Russia announced Monday it will conduct 40 large-scale military exercises in the eastern part of the country this summer, continuing a program of combat readiness.
Col. Alaxandr Gordeyev of Russia's Eastern Military District, one of four operational commands of the Russian military, said the largest of the "large-scale tactical, special and flight exercise" will take place at the Tsugol test site in Trans-Baikalia, near the border with Mongolia.
The announcement comes at the conclusion of four days of drills across Russia involving over 12,000 troops, hundreds of fighter jets and anti-aircraft missiles, what the Russia Defense Ministry called a "surprise combat readiness inspection." At the same time, NATO members underwent two weeks of drills in Scandinavia, involving 4,000 troops and over 100 aircraft, in a response to a series of exercises by Russia, some announced in advance and others relatively sudden, which have occurred since the outbreak of separatist violence in Ukraine.
"It's not just simply messages; (it is) actually preparation for a possible confrontation. And, also it is a message that we (Russia) are there and ready to take on any and (every) possible enemy," said Pavel Felgenhauer, a Moscow defense analyst.
The Kremlin has suggested that, in admitting Poland and Baltic countries Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia as members, NATO is surrounding Russia in violation of a verbal agreement, which NATO denies. Russia has also sent fighter planes over Western Europe and has made regular mention of its nuclear capability.
The military exercises occur at a time when Russia has also massed troops along its border with Ukraine for a possible summer offensive.