MOSCOW (Dispatches) -- Russian news agencies reported the start of military drills in southern Russia on Tuesday, hours after Paris said Vladimir Putin had promised not to stage new maneuvers near the border with Ukraine for the time being.
The three weeks of nighttime tactical drills would involve missile systems, tanks and armored vehicles, Russian news agencies quoted a spokesperson for the southern military district command as saying.
The Russian announcement did not make clear whether the drills were a new development or part of longstanding plans. Moscow had said in December that 3,000 drills would take place in the southern district during the course of 2022.
Putin met French President Emmanuel Macron in the Kremlin on Monday, and a French official had said Putin promised not to launch new military maneuvers near Ukraine for the time being.
Russia’s southern military district borders Ukraine and includes Crimea, territory Moscow seized from Ukraine in 2014. However, a list of 10 areas in southern Russia and breakaway regions of Georgia where the drills would take place did not include territories along the Ukrainian frontier.
Six Russian warships are heading to the Black Sea from the Mediterranean for naval drills, the Interfax news agency cited Russia’s Defense Ministry as saying on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the first U.S. troops reinforcing NATO allies on the eastern flank have arrived in Romania, Defense Minister Vasile Dancu said on Tuesday.
The United States is sending nearly 3,000 extra troops to Poland and Romania. The Pentagon said it will relocate a Stryker squadron of around 1,000 U.S. service members from Vilseck, Germany to Romania. In Poland, troops began arriving on Saturday.
The U.S. currently has about 900 soldiers in Romania, a NATO member since 2004 and host to a ballistic missile defense system.
France said it also plans to send troops to Romania and has offered to be the lead nation of a future NATO mission, which could see about 1,000 troops from various countries.
A decision could be made at the next NATO defense ministers meeting in mid-February.
NATO is considering a longer-term military posture in eastern Europe, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday. The alliance currently has troops rotating in and out of eastern Europe.