Russia has announced it will transfer nuclear-capable Iskander-M missile systems to its ally Belarus over the coming months.

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, June 25, Ukraine claimed Russian forces had fired multiple missiles on the Kyiv, Chernihiv and Sumy regions from Belarus.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaking on Saturday, 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.

The Iskander-M is a Russian-built short-range ballistic missile system that can carry conventional or nuclear warheads with a maximum range of up to 500 kilometers (310 miles), according to Janes Defense.

The weapon uses both optical and inertial guidance systems to strike its targets, hitting them with a range of warheads, such as cluster munitions, vacuum bombs, bunker-busters, and electromagnetic pulse (EMP) warheads, according to the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance.

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.

Lukashenko 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 do the same thing as the US flights and also 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.

The meeting between the Russian and Belarusian leaders came ahead of a week of summits in Europe, where the grinding war in Ukraine — entering its fifth month — will be front and center.

The leaders of Japan, Canada, the US, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, the European Union and host Germany will meet for the Group of 7 on Monday.


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