KEY POINTS

  • Over 1,000 pieces of military equipment, 10,000 troops and 60 aircraft will take part in the drills
  • The Russian Northern fleet ships will take part in the planned live-fire exercise off Ireland coast 
  • Over 20 ships of the Black Sea Fleet have also departed from their home ports for the Black Sea

Russian warships kickstarted a drill in the Barents Sea on Wednesday, a week after it announced massive drills across European waters. The naval exercise will see the participation of 140 warships, 1,000 pieces of military equipment, 10,000 troops and 60 aircraft. 

A statement by the Russian Northern Fleet issued Wednesday said a detachment of warships and support vessels of the Northern Fleet has entered the Barents Sea as part of an exercise with the Arctic Expeditionary Group of Forces and Troops, reported Reuters.

These include cruiser RFS Marshal Ustinov, destroyer RFS Vice Admiral Kulakov, frigate RFS Admiral Flota Kasatonov and other support vessels.

Though Kremlin maintained that the drill aimed to rehearse protecting the Northern Sea Route, a major shipping lane in the Arctic, the exercises are being closely monitored by the West, in the light of troop buildup in the Russia-Ukraine border.

The drills in the Arctic will involve around 30 warships, 20 aircraft, and 1,200 personnel, and are aimed to assess the combat readiness of the troops in the Arctic. The statement added that the exercises will see troops rehearse repelling military threats, including countering imaginary terrorist groups. Besides, a number of exercises will take place at coastal ranges in the Murmansk region. 

The Royal Norwegian Air Force confirmed the sighting of the three warships accompanied by replenishment ship Vyazma and tug SB-406. 

A report by USNI News said the Russian fleet was seen Tuesday heading south along the Norwegian coast in the waters north of Finnmark. Though the Royal Norwegian Air Force did not reveal the destination of the vessels, the report said they were heading to the planned live-fire exercise off Ireland coast. 

Dublin had not responded well to Kremlin's plan to host a live-fire naval exercise off the country's coast, saying it was "not welcome" but accepted that the country had no power to stop it. However, a group of fishermen had said that they plan to peacefully disrupt Russia's drill. 

While over 20 ships of the Black Sea Fleet departed from Sevastopol and Novorossiysk naval bases for exercises in the Black Sea on Monday, another 20 ships of the Baltic Fleet have embarked on a journey to the Baltic Sea.

Warships from the Russian Pacific Fleet Task Group have also departed to the Mediterranean Sea where they will join six landing craft that set out last week. 

This comes as Russia announced a series of cross-country naval exercises in January and February across every body of water bordering Russia. While separate drills will be held in the Mediterranean, the northeastern part of the Atlantic Ocean, and the Pacific Ocean, the exercises will are also planned in the North Sea near the British Isles and Scandinavia, as well as the Sea of Okhotsk near Japan. 

Russian-warship Representation. Russian warships are seen during a rehearsal. Photo: Reuters/Pavel Rebrov