Russian President Vladimir Putin has directed his country's armed forces to conduct large-scale exercises near the borders with Ukraine, amid political turmoil in the neighbouring nation.
Scheduled to start on Friday, the exercises would reportedly involve 150,000 troops deployed in the western and central areas of the country, 880 tanks and 90 combat aircraft, as well as 80 ships of the Baltic and Northern Fleets.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu was quoted by Interfax as saying that the exercises are aimed at testing the readiness of soldiers for action in crisis situations that threaten the country's military security.
The snap drills will also evaluate the armed forces' anti-terrorism and emergency response readiness, Shoigu added.
The move attracted a sharp condemnation from US Secretary of State John Kerry, who warned Moscow against any military intervention in Ukraine, despite the country's insistence that the manoeuvres were not related to the events in Ukraine, Associated Press reports.
In addition to the three-day drills, the Russian Ministry of Defence has announced measures to tighten security at the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet on the Crimean peninsula in south-eastern Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence refused to comment on the exercises as they will be held in Russian territory, CNN reports.
Image: Around 150,000 Russian soldiers are expected to participate in surprise military drills ordered by president Vladimir Putin. Photo: courtesy of Presidential Press and Information Office.