Putin oversees vast war games with Belarus ahead of parliamentary election.

Russian President Vladimir Putin oversaw vast joint military exercises with Belarus on Monday ahead of his country's parliamentary elections later this week, as NATO member Poland voiced concern over the drills.

The sprawling "Zapad-2021" live-fire exercises will run until Thursday at numerous sites in Russia and ex-Soviet Belarus, some of which are close to NATO's borders. They have caused alarm in neighbouring countries such as Ukraine.

Monday's exercises focused on launching a counter-offensive against enemy forces, the Russian Defence Ministry said. In the Arctic, Russia's Northern fleet and air force practised repelling an attack near its border with Norway.

Putin has said the drills -- which the defence ministry says involve 200,000 personnel, as well as 80 planes and helicopters and nearly 300 tanks -- are not directed against any foreign country and has called them a necessary response to increased NATO activity near Russia's borders and those of its allies.

The Russian leader flew into Russia's Nizhny Novgorod region east of Moscow with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, a close political ally, to review manoeuvres taking place there.

Russia is due to hold parliamentary elections on Sept. 17-19. The ruling United Russia party that backs Putin is expected to secure a win despite a slump in its popularity.

NATO, which has accused Russia of under-reporting troop movements in the past, said it would watch the drills closely. NATO officials also warned that the drills increase the risk of an accident or miscalculation that could touch off a crisis.

"While each country has the right to conduct military exercises, limited transparency, the wider context of the manoeuvres and the accompanying hybrid activities raise our concerns," Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau said.

He pointed to a Russian troop build-up near Ukraine earlier this year and a border crisis with Belarus in which Poland and the EU accused Minsk of encouraging migrants to enter Poland.

"Our countries and NATO as a whole remain vigilant," Rau told reporters after meeting his Baltic counterparts in Riga.

Moscow denies any lack of transparency and says it has voluntarily disclosed extensive information about the drills.

The Sun newspaper brings you the latest breaking news videos and explainers from the UK and around the world

Become a Sun Subscriber and hit the bell to be the first to know

Read The Sun: www.thesun.co.uk
Like The Sun on Facebook: www.facebook.com/thesun/
Follow The Sun on Twitter: twitter.com/TheSun
Subscribe to The Sun on Snapchat: www.snapchat.com/discover/The_Sun/1633225139

Watch video on channel "The Sun"
Covid-19 UK: Jabs rollout for kids aged 12-15 starts in schools.

Covid-19 UK: Jabs rollout for kids aged 12-15 starts in schools.

Coronavirus latest: THE rollout of Covid jabs for kids aged 12-15 has started today across the UK with up to three million kids being eligible for the shot. The programme will be delivered primarily through schools up and down the country. So far ...

LIVE: Gabby Petito - Police and FBI search Fiancé Brian Laundries' family home.

LIVE: Gabby Petito - Police and FBI search Fiancé Brian Laundries' family home.

There is major police activity occurring at Gabby Petito's Fiancé, Brian Laundries' house. The FBI removed Chris and Roberta Laundrie from their home in North Port, Florida As of September 20, authorities found a body in Northern Wyoming that they...

LIVE: Migrant CRISIS reaches new heights as MORE cross Mexico border river to enter Texas.

LIVE: Migrant CRISIS reaches new heights as MORE cross Mexico border river to enter Texas.

Migrants walk through the river to cross the border between Ciudad Acuña, Mexico and Del Río Texas. US border agents began expelling plane-loads of mostly Haitian migrants from a large makeshift camp they had set up after wading across the Rio Gra...

Students jump from windows as gunman kills at least 8 in university rampage in Russia.

Students jump from windows as gunman kills at least 8 in university rampage in Russia.

HORRIFIED students were seen jumping from windows and fleeing for their lives at a university after a gunman stormed the campus. At least eight people have been killed and 32 people injured in the massacre at Perm State University in Russia. Foota...

La Palma volcano - Red-hot lava spews from cater on Spanish island.

La Palma volcano - Red-hot lava spews from cater on Spanish island.

A volcano erupted on the Spanish Canary Island of La Palma on Sunday, sending jets of lava and a plume of smoke and ash into the air from the Cumbre Vieja national park in the south of the island. Authorities had begun evacuating the infirm and so...