Moscow fires cruise missiles in sea drills between Russia and Alaska

(Reuters) - Russia fired cruise missiles at mock targets in the seas separating it from Alaska on Monday in what it said was an exercise to protect its northern shipping route in the Arctic.

The defence ministry said Vulcan, Granit and Onyx cruise missiles were fired over distances of hundreds of kilometres to strike targets simulating enemy ships in the Bering Sea.

The exercise involved land-, ship- and submarine-launched missiles and included about 10,000 military personnel, as well as planes and helicopters, the ministry said.

The drills took place on Russia's Chukotka peninsula and in the Chukchi and Bering Seas, and were supervised by Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov, commander-in-chief of the Russian navy.

Russia is keen to demonstrate its continued ability to project force in the Arctic and the far east despite the strains on its armed forces from the 18-month war in Ukraine.

Moscow said last year it planned to spend almost $30 billion by 2035 on developing the northern sea route, which has become more viable as climate change has reduced sea ice in the Arctic. It runs across the top of Russia from Murmansk near the borders with Norway and Finland to the Bering Strait near Alaska.

President Vladimir Putin highlighted the importance of the route in a speech to the BRICS group of countries last month, saying Russia was planning to construct new ports and fuel terminals and expand its icebreaker fleet.

(Writing by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Kevin Liffey)