The drills come days after Moscow claimed it had fired warning shots at a British warship in the Black Sea.
The Russian army has launched large maneuvers in the Mediterranean Sea with warplanes capable of carrying hypersonic missiles, a show of strength amid rising tensions following an incident with a British destroyer in the Black Sea.
Moscow said one of its warships fired warning shots and a warplane dropped bombs on the route of the British destroyer Defender to force it out of an area near Crimea that Russia claims as waters. territorials. Britain denied this account, insisting it did not fire its ship and said it was sailing in Ukrainian waters.
The Russian exercises that began Friday in the eastern Mediterranean occur when a strike group of British carriers is in the area.
Earlier this week, British and American F-35 fighters from HMS Queen Elizabeth flew combat outings against the ISIL group (ISIS).
Russia has been conducting a military campaign in Syria since September 2015, which has allowed President Bashar al-Assad’s government to regain control over most of the country after a devastating civil war.
The Russian Defense Ministry said a pair of MiG-31 fighter jets capable of carrying Kinzhal hypersonic missiles arrived at the Russian air base in Syria to conduct the exercise. Hemeimeem Air Base, in the coastal province of Latakia, serves as the main center of Moscow’s operations in the country.
It is the first time that warplanes capable of carrying Kinzhal have been deployed beyond Russian borders.
According to the military, the Kinzhal flies at ten times the speed of sound and has a range of up to 2,000 km (approximately 1,250 miles).
The Ministry of Defense said the maneuvers in the eastern Mediterranean involved several warships, two submarines and long-range Tu-22M3 bombers along with other fighter jets.
The nuclear-capable Tu-22M3 supersonics were first deployed in Syria last month in a demonstration of an increase in Russia’s military position in the Mediterranean.
The Russian army has modernized the Hemeimeem runway to house heavy bombers and built a second one to expand operations there.
Russia has also expanded and modified a naval base in the Syrian port of Tartus, the only such facility it currently has outside the former Soviet Union.
The Russian army has increased the number and scope of its exercises amid strong tensions in relations with the West, which have sunk to post-Cold War lows following Moscow’s annexation of the peninsula. of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
As part of President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to bolster the Russian army, the navy of recent years has revived the Soviet-era practice of constantly turning its warships in the Mediterranean.
Speaking to reporters aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth on Sunday, Commodore Steve Moorhouse said the eastern Mediterranean had become more “congested and disputed” with Russia’s heavier military presence in Syria, prompting regular meetings with Russian ships and warplanes.
He noted that a Russian warship has arrived less than 16 km (10 miles) from the carrier.