The Russian Pacific Fleet has begun massive naval maneuvers in the central part of the Pacific Ocean shortly after the US military announced plans to hold it largest war games in a generation in the same region this summer.
"In accordance with the plan of training military command centers of the Pacific Fleet’s forces (troops) in 2021, an operational exercise of the Fleet’s combined arms forces is running in the distant maritime zone," Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement.
The Pacific Fleet’s "naval tactical groups have made a transit about 4,000 km long from naval bases and combat watch areas and deployed the Fleet’s groups in the designated area of the Pacific for accomplishing training tasks," the statement added.
According to the statement, the naval drills in the distant maritime zone will also involve “up to 20 surface combatants, submarines and support vessels, including the Fleet’s flagship, the Guards Order of Nakhimov Missile Cruiser Varyag.”
It will engage nearly 20 aircraft, “including Tu-142M3 long-range anti-submarine warfare planes, MiG-31BM high-altitude interceptor-fighters and other aircraft of Russia’s Aerospace Force, the defense ministry statement added.
The Russian naval drills come after the US military announced last month that tens of thousands of American sailors and Marines would take part in the largest naval war game in a generation to purportedly prepare for potential conflicts with China or Russia across vast distances.
Aircraft carriers, submarines, war planes, unmanned vessels, and nearly 25,000 military forces will take part in Large Scale Exercise (LSE) 2021, which is due to commence in late summer.
The massive war game will span 17 time zones with American sailors and Marines joining forces in the US, Africa, Europe and the Pacific.
Russia intercepts US spy aircraft
Russian jet fighters intercepted a US spy plane over the Pacific Ocean, US-based Newsweek magazine reported Thursday.
The Russian Defense Ministry also said "an air target approaching the State border of the Russian Federation was detected by Russian airspace control over the Pacific Ocean," prompting Russia's Pacific Fleet to scramble a Su-35 fighter jet.
The Russian warplane identified the target as a US Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance plane and escorted the aircraft out of the area.
The aircraft conducted a U-turn away from the Russian airspace and "violations of the State border of the Russian Federation were not allowed," according to the defense ministry statement. The Su-35, for its part, flew "in strict accordance with international rules for the use of airspace.
Biden to warn Putin
The naval drills come in the lead-up to the highly anticipated debut summit between US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, set to take place next Wednesday in the Swiss capital of Geneva.
"We're not seeking conflict with Russia. We want a stable predictable relationship," Biden told US Air Force troops stationed at Royal Air Force Mildenhall in Britain. "Our two nations share incredible responsibilities, and among them ensuring strategic stability and upholding arms control agreements. I take that responsibility seriously."
He further warned of what Washington perceives as aggressive behavior by Moscow, including unfounded US claims of Russian meddling in its electoral process as well as waging cyberattacks against the US and its allies.
"But I've been clear: The United States will respond in a robust and meaningful way when the Russian government engages in harmful activities," Biden proclaimed, vowing to warn Putin about what he claimed as “consequences for violating the sovereignty of democracies in the United States and Europe and elsewhere."