The Russian military has launched massive military maneuvers in the Arctic, part of its effort to expand its presence in the polar region.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Monday that the drills will involve 38,000 servicemen, more than 50 surface ships and submarines and 110 aircraft. He said in a statement carried by the Russian news agencies that President Vladimir Putin has ordered the maneuvers to check the readiness of Russia's Northern Fleet and the military's ability to deploy additional forces from central Russia.

The exercise comes amid Russia-West tensions over Ukraine. The United States is planning to conduct joint exercises with forces from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania later this month.

Shoigu said that "the new challenges and threats require further increase of the armed forces' capabilities."