North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) Steadfast Defender exercises are a provocation and could lead to tragic consequences for Europe, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Friday.

“For several months, 90,000 troops from 31 NATO member countries, as well as from Sweden, will operate near Russia’s borders in an area stretching from Norway to Romania,” Zakharova said.

The move is a “provocation” and “deliberately aimed at escalating the situation”, she said, warning that it will increase the risk of military incidents and “finally could lead to tragic consequences for Europe”.

NATO on Wednesday began Steadfast Defender 2024 exercises, its largest military manoeuvre in decades. The exercise will take place at various sites and will conclude on 31 May.