Russia to carry out large-scale military drills in 2015

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a welcoming ceremony as he inspects the Vice-Admiral Kulakov anti-submarine warfare ship in Novorossiysk, September 23, 2014. Russia will increase its Black Sea fleet by 2020 with more than 80 new warships and will complete a second naval base for the fleet near the city of Novorossiysk by 2016, its commander said on Tuesday. In comments made to Putin as he visited the port city, Vice Admiral Alexander Vitko said a second Black Sea base was needed in addition to the main base on the Crimea peninsula annexed from Ukraine because of NATO expansion. REUTERS/Mikhail Klimentyev/RIA Novosti/Kremlin (RUSSIA - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY MARITIME) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said on Monday it would carry out more than 4,000 military drills next year, with the largest involving "tens of thousands" of servicemen next summer.

Russia has increased the number of military drills to test and improve its military capabilities as ties with the West deteriorated over the crisis in Ukraine.

"The exercises will take place in the summer period simultaneously on several training grounds within Russia and abroad," Yaroslav Roshupkin, a spokesman for Russia's Central Military District, said of the planned "Centre 2015" drills.

"They will be extended in time and bring together under unified command tens of thousands of servicemen of the Central Military District, branches and types of the armed forces, as well as other security ministries and agencies."

He said new weapons would also be tested during the exercises.

The Defence Ministry said next year's plans mark an increase from more than 3,000 drills carried out this year.

(Reporting by Alexei Anishchuk, Gabriela Baczynska and Lyudmila Danilova, editing by Timothy Heritage)