NEWS: Putin supervises Belarusian-Belarusian maneuvers that disturb NATO

The Russian president traveled to the Leningrad region today to oversee the joint Russian-Belarusian maneuvers "Zapad-2017", which have troubled the countries of the area and NATO.

"Putin is always a commander-in-chief," Dmitri Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, told reporters.

Peskov denied that the presence of the Russian leader in the exercises "Zapad-2017" has to do with the negative reaction of the western countries.

According to the Kremlin, Putin will not make statements and will simply listen to the reports of senior military commanders and personally observe the exercises.

"If time permits, the president will also oversee the next-generation weaponry," the spokesman said.

Russian army chief of staff Valeri Guerásimov assured the NATO supreme commander for Europe, General Curtis Scaparrotti, that the maneuvers are purely defensive and not directed against the allies, who have accused Moscow of lack of transparency.

But neighboring countries are not satisfied, and that similar maneuvers gave way in 2008 to the invasion of the Georgian separatist region of South Ossetia and in 2014 to the Russian annexation of the then Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg criticized Russia's lack of transparency on September 6 and assured that the Alliance will closely follow the joint maneuvers.

Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz accused Putin of wanting to "intimidate the West and Poland"; while Latvia expressed fears that the Russian military presence in Belarus would become permanent.

Spy planes from the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Sweden have been flying over the border with Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave in the Baltic, according to Russian media reports.

The "Zapad (" West ", in Russian) -2017" are held in military estates in western Belarus and the Russian regions of Leningrad, Pskov and Kaliningrad, enclave embedded between Poland and Lithuania.

According to Russian and Belarussian sources, some 12,700 troops are involved in the maneuvers, including 7,200 Belarusians and the rest of the Russians, although the Allies estimate more than 100,000 participants.

   

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