MOSCOW (AP) — Ships of the Russian and Chinese navies have begun exercises in the Baltic Sea, watched from afar by neighboring NATO countries uneasy about Russia's growing military assertiveness.

Russia and China have conducted joint exercises for several years, but the maneuvers that began Tuesday were the first in the Baltic, whose shores include Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland, countries that expressed concern about Russia in the wake of the 2014 annexation of Crimea.

The exercises include a Chinese destroyer, frigate and supply ship and will include live-fire practice at surface and air targets, the state news agency Tass reported.

"Lithuania constantly observes the exercises taking place in our neighborhood," that country's vice-defense minister Vytautas Umbrasas told the Baltic News Service.