President Vladimir Putin has scrambled troops across southwestern Russia for massive military drills amid continuing tensions with the West.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that some airborne units and military transport aviation were put on combat alert early Monday marking the launch of the exercise that involves troops of the Southern Military District.

The district includes troops stationed in Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, as well as forces in the North Caucasus and southwestern regions near the border with Ukraine.

Shoigu said the maneuvers are intended to check the troops' ability to respond to terrorist threats and other challenges. They are the latest in a series of large-scale drills intended to strengthen the military's readiness.