Russia will transfer nuclear-capable Iskander-M missile systems to its ally Belarus over the coming months, Russian President Vladimir Putin said.
Putin told Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko at a meeting in St. Petersburg the missile systems “can use both ballistic and cruise missiles, both in conventional and nuclear versions,” according to the Kremlin, CNN reported.
Russia launched its February 24 invasion in part from Belarusian territory, which borders Ukraine to the north. Throughout the war, Moscow has used Minsk as a satellite base including for many of Russia’s air operations in Ukraine, according to intelligence collected by NATO surveillance planes.
On Saturday, Ukraine claimed Russian forces had fired multiple missiles on the Kyiv, Chernihiv and Sumy regions from Belarus.
In a transcript of the meeting, Lukashenko expressed to Putin his “stress” over what he alleged are flights by United States and NATO planes “training to carry nuclear warheads” close to Belarus’ border, CNN reported.
He asked Putin to consider “a mirrored response” to the flights or to convert Russian fighter jets, which are currently deployed to Belarus, to “carry nuclear warheads.”
Putin replied that “there is no need” to match the US flights and suggested Belarus could modify its own Su-25 aircraft to be nuclear-capable instead.
“This modernization should be carried out at aircraft factories in Russia, but we will agree with you on how to do this. And accordingly, start training the flight crew,” Putin said, CNN reported.