Russia promises Belarus Iskander-M nuclear-capable missileson June 25, 2022 at 10:41 pm

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The Iskander-M systems can carry both conventional and nuclear warheads, with a range of up to 500 km.

Iskander missile, 2015 file picImage source, Reuters

Russia will send nuclear capable short-range missile systems to its ally Belarus in the coming months, President Vladimir Putin has said.

He said Iskander-M systems “can fire ballistic and cruise missiles, both conventional and nuclear types”.

The systems have a range of up to 500km (310 miles).

Tensions between Russia and the West have escalated, following President Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine on 24 February.

In a separate development on Saturday, Ukraine said Russian forces “have fully occupied” the key eastern city of Severodonetsk, following weeks of fierce fighting.

Taking the city means Russia now controls nearly all of Luhansk region and much of neighbouring Donetsk – the two regions that form the vast industrial Donbas.

In his video address late on Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pledged to take back “all our cities” occupied by Russia.

Overnight, Russia launched a barrage of missiles at targets in the north and west of Ukraine.

At Saturday’s televised meeting with his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko in St Petersburg, Mr Putin said: “We have made a decision: within the next few months we will hand over to Belarus the Iskander-M tactical missile systems.”

He said all the details of the transfer would be worked out by the ministries of defence of the two countries.

Iskander missiles have already been deployed in Kaliningrad, a small Russian Baltic exclave between Nato members Lithuania and Poland.

The two presidents also discussed Lithuania’s decision to prevent some goods being transported to and from Kaliningrad – a move that has angered Moscow.

The Belarusian leader said Lithuania’s move was “a sort of declaration of war” and “unacceptable”.

Steel and some other Russian goods come under the EU sanctions imposed over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Lithuania says its measures affect only 1% of the normal Russian goods transit on the route, dismissing Russian talk of a “blockade” of Kaliningrad.

In St Petersburg, Mr Putin also said Russia would help to modify Belarusian SU-25 warplanes so that they could carry nuclear weapons, in response to a query from Mr Lukashenko.

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