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Russia to hold huge naval drill with 140 warships, 60 aircraft as tensions heighten

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Russia announced Thursday it will hold huge naval drills in the Atlantic, Arctic, Pacific and Mediterranean this month and February, at a time of heightened tensions with Western nations.

The war games will involve “more than 140 warships and support vessels, more than 60 aircraft, 1,000 pieces of military equipment, and about 10,000 servicemen,” the defense ministry said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies.

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The announcement comes one day ahead of a meeting in Geneva between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, aimed at defusing tensions between the Kremlin and the West over Ukraine.

The West has accused Russia of massing some 100,000 troops around the borders of its ex-Soviet ally and says Moscow is preparing an invasion.

Russia denies the claims and has demanded that NATO limit its presence in Europe and not admit Ukraine as a member of the security bloc.

Russia has also recently repeatedly pointed to US naval drills and air patrols in the Black Sea as exacerbating Moscow’s security concerns.

Russia is currently holding naval drills alongside China and Iran in the Gulf of Oman that are due to conclude Saturday. They come during Iranian leader Ebrahim Raisi’s first visit to Russia.

Thursday’s announcement of the coordinated drills comes after Moscow said earlier in the day it had test-fired a Kalibr cruise missile from a submarine in the Sea of Japan, targeting a land-based target.

The defense ministry said the main goal of the upcoming massive drills was to “protect Russian national interests in the oceans and to counter military threats to Russia from seas and oceans”.

With ties between Russia and the West under particular strain over Ukraine’s security, Blinken was in Berlin on Thursday meeting with European allies ahead of the meeting with Lavrov.

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