Putin promises Belarus nuclear-capable missiles to confront ‘aggressive’ West

  • This content was produced in Russia, where the law restricts coverage of Russian military operations in Ukraine

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Belarusian counterpart on Saturday that Moscow would provide Minsk with missile systems capable of carrying nuclear weapons, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

At a meeting with Putin in St. Petersburg, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko expressed concern about the “aggressive”, “confrontational” and “hateful” policies of its neighbors Lithuania and Poland.

He asked Putin to help Belarus in a “symmetric response” to what he described as nuclear-armed flights by the US-led NATO near the Belarus border.

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Putin said he did not see the need for a symmetrical response at the moment, but that the Russian Su-25s made in Belarus could, if necessary, be upgraded at Russian factories.

“We will transfer to Belarus the Iskander-M tactical missile systems, which can use both ballistic and cruise missiles, both in the conventional and nuclear versions,” a State Department summary quoted the meeting as saying.

The Iskander-M, a mobile guided missile system NATO dubbed the “SS-26 Stone”, replaced the Soviet Scud system. Its dual-guided missiles have a range of 500 kilometers (300 miles) and can carry conventional or nuclear warheads.

Parts of the meeting between the two men were broadcast on television.

“Minsk must be ready for anything, even the use of serious weapons to defend our homeland from Brest to Vladivostok,” Lukashenko said, putting Belarus and its close ally Russia under one umbrella.

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In particular, he requested assistance in making military aircraft of Belarus capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

Tensions between Russia and the West have risen since Moscow sent troops into Ukraine four months ago, claiming among other things that NATO intends to accept Ukraine and use it as a platform to threaten Russia.

Russia’s move not only unleashed a barrage of Western sanctions but also prompted Sweden and Russia’s northern neighbor Finland to advance to join the Western alliance.

Last week, Lithuania in particular infuriated Russia by blocking the transit of goods subject to European sanctions through its territory from Russia, through Belarus, to Russia’s Baltic region of Kaliningrad.

Russia called it a “blockade,” but Lithuania says it affects only 1% of normal freight transit on the road, and that passenger traffic has not been affected.

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Reporting by Reuters. Editing by Sandra Mahler

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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