Russia Northern Fleet and Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is missing from the public eye for more than 10 days, has put Northern Fleet on full combat readiness as the mystery over his whereabouts persistSergei Remezov/Reuters file photo

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered his Northern Fleet forces on full combat readiness to prepare for military drills.

An official statement said that the Russian leader has directed a five-day land, sea and air exercise beginning from today, 16 March.

"The main task of the [combat readiness drill] is to assess the armed forces from the Northern Fleet's capabilities in fulfilling tasks in providing military security of the Russian Federation in the Arctic region," Moscow's defence minister Sergei Shoigu said during a gathering at the National Defence Management Centre.

The Northern Fleet – comprising 38,000 troops, 41 vessels, 15 submarines, 110 aircraft and thousands of military equipment – was informed of the manoeuvres at 8am local time.

The drill has been announced at a time when ties between Russia and Western nations continue to deteriorate largely due to the Ukraine crisis.

Shoigu said the latest exercises are taking place foreseeing the growing security threat for Russia. He said: "New challenges and threats of military security demand the further heightening of military capabilities of the Armed Forces and special attention will be paid to the state of the newly formed strategic merging [of forces] in the North."

In addition to this, Russia's deputy foreign minister Alexey Meshkov has expressed concerns over Nato's intensified military activities near Russia's borders.

"Russia is deeply concerned about the growing number of Nato drills near our borders. It is especially surprising that this is happening in north-eastern Europe, which is the most stable region not only on our continent, but also maybe in the whole world. Such Nato actions lead to destabilization of the situation and increasing tensions in north-eastern Europe," said Meshkov.