Russia's military says it has started exercises in the eastern Mediterranean near Syria to test the navy's ability to respond to "crisis situations of a terrorist nature."

The Defense Ministry statement says that in the exercises that began Monday a naval strike force will fire artillery and missiles in combat-like conditions.

The ministry says among the vessels taking part are two Buyan-M corvettes equipped with long-range cruise missiles of the type used to strike the Islamic State group in Syria last year.

Since intervening in Syria's civil war in September, Russia has kept warships off Syria's coast, reviving a Soviet-era practice when Soviet warships maintained a permanent vigil in the Mediterranean. Russia's naval facility in the Syrian port of Tartus is now the only such facility outside the ex-Soviet Union.