MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Russian President Vladimir Putin always attends large-scale military exercises as the supreme commander-in-chief of the Russian Armed Forces, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday, commenting on the Western countries' dismay over Russia-Belarus Zapad-2017 military drills.
"It is a regular visit to a large-scale exercise. Putin always attends it as the country's supreme commander-in-chief," Peskov told reporters.
The spokesman added that Putin would observe the course of the strategic exercise at a training ground within his visit to attend a stage of the Russian-Belarusian military exercises in Russia's northwestern Leningrad region on September 18.
However, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that the alliance does not see any imminent threat posed to against any NATO member by the drills.
In their turn, senior Russian and Belarusian officials reiterated that the drills do not pose any threat to other states and are exclusively defensive in nature. Moreover, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko stated earlier that these exercises would be open for foreign observers. The Defense Ministry of Belarus reported in August that observers from seven countries — Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Sweden, Norway — were invited to the event.
When commenting on NATO states' reaction to the planned drills, the Russian Foreign Ministry said earlier that increasing military presence of NATO in Eastern Europe went unnoticed amid groundless criticism of the Russian-Belarusian Zapad-2017 military exercises.
Moscow has repeatedly criticized the increased presence of the alliance’s troops and military facilities near the Russian border. Moscow has said Russia had never planned and does not plan to attack any NATO member.