Wednesday, 17 Apr 2024

Putin says tactical nukes will be moved into Belarus in weeks

Vladimir Putin says deployment of nuclear weapons in Belarus will begin ‘immediately’ after preparations are complete in a matter of weeks.

The Russian President confirmed the news during a meeting with his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko in Sochi today.

‘So everything is according to plan, everything is stable,’ Putin said, according to a readout from the Kremlin.

Russia will start deploying tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus after the facilities are ready on July 7-8, he added.

The two men had previously agreed the plan to deploy Russian land-based short-range nuclear missiles on the territory of Moscow’s close ally, where they will remain under Russian command.

Since invading Ukraine last year, Putin has repeatedly warned Russia would be ready to use nuclear weapons if needed to defend its ‘territorial integrity’.

Ukraine said Belarus had been ‘taken hostage’ by the Kremlin, when the agreement was first announced back in March,

Today, Russia reported heavy fighting along the front in southern Ukraine, where bloggers described the first sightings of German and U.S. armour, signalling that Ukraine’s long-anticipated counterattack was under way.

Reuters reports that the push is ultimately expected to involve thousands of Ukrainian troops trained and equipped by the West.

Russia, which has had months to prepare its defensive lines, says it has withstood attacks since the start of the week. Kyiv meanwhile, has so far said its main effort has yet to begin.

Ben Barry, senior fellow for land warfare at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said reports of German-made Leopard tanks and U.S. Bradley armoured vehicles seen near Tokmak south of Orikhiv, if confirmed, would provide the first evidence that Ukraine’s new brigades of Western-armed troops had joined the battle.

In all, Kyiv has 12 brigades totalling 50,000-60,000 troops ready to unleash in the counteroffensive. Nine of the brigades have been armed and trained by the West.

‘They’ve got a choice of how many they commit initially and how many they keep in reserve in case the battlefield dynamics change,’ Mr Barry added.

Ukraine generally prevents journalists from reporting on its side of front lines during offensive operations, emphasising the need to keep its plans secret.

In Russia’s latest report from the battlefield, the army claimed to have destroyed 21 Ukrainian armoured vehicles in the past 24 hours.

In Kyiv’s few comments on the fighting, it has reported gains of territory in the east around the city of Bakhmut, which Russian forces captured last month after nearly a year of the deadliest ground combat in Europe since World War Two.

In his nightly video address, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy thanked Ukrainian troops and repeated earlier claims of success in Bakhmut, but gave no further account.

‘We see every detail. But it’s not time to talk about it today,’ he said.

In the latest Russian air strikes, Ukraine said it had shot down four of six missiles overnight.

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