Dozens of Russian ships took part in military exercises in the strategic Baltic Sea on Thursday after Sweden and Finland recently announced their NATO candidacies.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that the ships of its Baltic Fleet “will carry out training tasks for the defense of sea lanes and fleet bases.”
He said 60 ships and 40 aircraft are taking part in the maneuvers which will also take place ashore at training grounds in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.
The navy drills come amid heightened tensions between Moscow and NATO after Sweden and Finland submitted bids to join the US-led alliance following the start of Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine .
If their membership – currently blocked by Turkey – is approved, Russia would become the only non-NATO country on the Baltic Sea.
In a show of support for Finland and Sweden joining NATO, US Chief of Staff General Mark Milley was in Stockholm on Saturday aboard the USS Kearsage, making it the largest American warship to ever dock in Stockholm.
His visit comes as NATO holds annual naval exercises in the Baltic Sea called “Baltops 22” which are due to run until June 17.