Russia’s President Vladimir Putin supervised a wide-scale joint military drill with Belarus on Monday before the country’s parliamentary elections.
The elections are set to begin later this week, as NATO member Poland raises concerns over the drills
The wide-scale “Zapad-2021” exercise with live fire will remain until Thursday at several places in Russia and Belarus. Read More.
Some sites are near NATO’s borders, and they have caused alarm in neighboring countries like Ukraine.
The Russian Defence Ministry said Monday’s drills concentrated on making a counter-attack against enemies.
For instance, Russia’s Northern fleet and air forces trained in the Arctic on defending against attacks near Norway’s border.
Putin said the attacks are not directed at any country, but a response to the rising NATO activity near Russia’s border.
The defense ministry said the drills included 200,000 personnel, 80 aircraft and helicopters and 300 tanks.
The Russian leader flew into Russia’s Nizhny Novgorod region east of Moscow with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, a close political ally, to review maneuvers taking place there.
Putin traveled with his close political ally, defense minister Sergei Shoigu, to Nizhny Novgorod, eastern Russia, to review maneuvers in action.
Russia will hold its parliamentary elections from September 17 to 19. Polls expect the ruling United Russia that backs Putin to win.
NATO accused Russia of reporting wrong information on troop movement before and said it would closely watch the drills.
Officials in NATO also raised alarms that the drills increase the risk of an accident that could cause a crisis.
“Each country has the right to conduct military exercises, limited transparency,” Poland’s Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau said.
“However, the wider context of the maneuvers and the accompanying hybrid activities raise our concerns,” he added.
He raised the issue of Russian troop masses near Ukraine early this year and the border crisis with Belarus.
Poland and the European Union accused Minsk of facilitating migrant waves into Poland.
“Our countries and NATO as a whole, remain vigilant,” Rau said after a meeting with his Baltic counterparts in Riga.
On the other hand, Moscow denies a lack of transparency and says it has disclosed a lot of information about the drills voluntarily.