A total of 500 US marines have begun exercises with their European counterparts as part of the international Baltops 2010 naval exercise taking place in the Baltic Sea 7-18 June.

Over 3,000 soldiers from different countries are taking part in the exercise carried out in Latvia and Estonia, according to RIA Novosti.

During the exercise, a total of 36 vessels, two submarines and other military vehicles will participate in the drills.

The Russian Navy has deployed an amphibious assault landing ship, the Kaliningrad, for the exercise. It can carry up to 500t of cargo, 13 tanks and more than 200 naval infantry.

Countries participating in the exercise include the US, Belgium, Estonia, Denmark, France, Russia, Latvia, the UK, Lithuania, Germany and Sweden.

Baltops is an annual military exercise in the Baltic Sea and the surrounding regions, intended to improve the interoperability of the participating navies by conducting peace support operations.

The operations involved in the exercise include gunnery, replenishment at sea, anti-submarine warfare, radar tracking and interception, mine countermeasures, seamanship, search and rescue, and maritime interdiction operations.