Moscow will deliver missiles to Belarus

Russia will supply Belarus with missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads “in the coming months,” Vladimir Putin announced on Saturday as he received Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko amid tensions between his countries and the West over Ukraine.

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“In the coming months, we will transfer Iskander-M tactical missile systems, capable of using ballistic or cruise missiles, in their conventional and nuclear versions to Belarus,” Putin said at the beginning of his interview with Mr. Lukashenko in St. Petersburg, broadcast by Russian television.

In statements that could further strain relations between Moscow and Western countries, the two leaders also hinted that they wanted to modernize the Belarusian air force to make it capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

“Many [avions] Su-25s are in service with the Belarusian Army. They could be improved accordingly. This modernization must be carried out at aircraft factories in Russia, and staff training must begin accordingly,” Mr Putin said after Mr Lukashenko asked him to “adapt” his plane to carry nuclear weapons.

“We will agree on how to achieve this,” Putin added.

This exchange comes at a time when Russia and its ally Belarus have been in open crisis with Western countries ever since Moscow launched a military offensive against Ukraine with diplomatic and logistical support from Minsk.

Since the beginning of the offensive, Mr. Putin has several times more or less directly raised the issue of Russia’s nuclear armament, which Western countries see as threats aimed at dissuading them from supporting Kiev.

Belarus, which borders Ukraine and several NATO member states, announced last month that it had purchased Iskander systems capable of carrying nuclear payloads.

At their meeting on Saturday, Mr. Putin and Lukashenko also discussed the situation in the fertilizer market. Russia and Belarus are among the world’s top producers but say Western sanctions against them over Ukraine have hampered their export capacities amid growing concerns over global food security.

With Mr Lukashenko, “we agreed to do everything possible to meet the needs of our consumers and our customers,” Mr Putin said on Saturday, adding that Moscow is “in close contact with the specialized organizations of the United Nations.” be. to this topic.

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