Vladimir Putin to send nuclear-capable missiles to Belarus to counter 'aggressive' West

·11 min read
Putin - Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/Kremlin/REUTERS
Putin - Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/Kremlin/REUTERS

Vladimir Putin will give nuclear-capable missiles to Belarus and upgrade its air force to counter the "aggressive" West.

The Iskander-Ms could be the first nuclear-capable missiles stationed in the country, which only approved nuclear weapons on its territory in a referendum on February 27, three days after Russia invaded Ukraine.

In May, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said that he had bought older missiles from Russia which are also capable of firing a nuclear warhead, but it is not clear if these have been delivered.

"In the coming months, we will transfer to Belarus Iskander-M tactical missile systems, which can use ballistic or cruise missiles, in their conventional and nuclear versions," Mr Putin said in conversation with the Mr Lukashenko on Saturday.

Mr Putin justified upgrading Belarus' missile capabilities because he said that Europe had 200 tactical missiles ready to use and 257 aircraft capable of firing them.

Mr Lukashenko said that he was concerned by the "aggressive attitude" of Belarus' European neighbours, and he asked Mr Putin to upgrade Belarus' fighter jets so that they could carry and fire nuclear missiles.

"Minsk must be ready for anything, even the use of serious weaponry to defend our fatherland from Brest to Vladivostok," Mr Lukashenko said, a geographic reference that lumped Belarus and Russia into one united "fatherland".

Mr Lukashenko is the Russian president's closest ally and has supported his invasion of Ukraine. He allowed Belarus to be used as a launchpad for the invasion, but has kept Belarusian soldiers out of the conflict.

But Ukrainian officials said on Saturday that Russian fighter jets fired 12 missiles at targets in Ukraine from the safety of Belarusian air space.

04:04 PM

That's all for today.

Thanks for following today's live blog.

Here are the key developments from today:

  • Russian forces have now fully occupied the strategic Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk, the mayor said, after weeks of heavy fighting and bombardment.

  • Meanwhile, Russian troops and allies entered Lysychansk and street fighting is under way in the eastern Ukrainian city neighbouring its strategic twin Severodonetsk, pro-Moscow separatists said.

  • Boris Johnson said he fears Ukraine could be pressured into agreeing a "bad" peace deal with Russia that was not in its interests due to the economic consequences of the war.

  • Russia launched artillery and air strikes on the twin cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, hitting a chemical plant where hundreds of civilians were trapped, a Ukrainian official said.

  • It came as local officials said that dozens of Russian missiles had rained down on military facilities in western and northern Ukraine.

04:01 PM

Russian fighter jets fire 12 missiles at Ukrainian targets from Belarusian airspace

Russian fighter jets have fired 12 missiles at targets in Ukraine from Belarusian airspace for the first time in the effort, Ukrainian intelligence has said, to draw Minsk deeper into its war.

The missiles slammed into the Chernihiv, Sumy and Kyiv regions north of the Ukrainian capital, James Kilner reports.

"(This was) a large-scale provocation of the Russian Federation in order to further involve Belarus in the war against Ukraine," Ukrainian military intelligence said.

Neither the Russian or Belarussian side have commented.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is a staunch ally of Putin and allowed him to launch his invasion of Ukraine from Belarus but he has been eager to keep Belarussian soldiers out of the war.

03:16 PM

Erdogan signals no progress on Sweden's Nato bid

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has signalled no progress on Sweden's bid to join Nato in a phone call with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, urging Stockholm to take "concrete actions" to meet Ankara's concerns.

Mr Erdogan reiterated that "Sweden should take steps regarding such fundamental matters as combatting terrorism", and said Ankara "wanted to see binding commitments on these issues together with concrete and clear action", his office said.

03:03 PM

Watch: Russia carries out airstrikes on Ukrainian targets

02:46 PM

Inside the elite extraction group rescuing civilians from Ukraine's most dangerous warzones

The British-founded Mozart Group is one of the few organisations taking extreme risks to rescue civilians trapped under Russian bombardment, reports Nicola Smith.

The potholed dirt road in and out of the besieged Ukrainian town of Novoluhanske last week was impossible to cross without the risk of being struck by heavy artillery fire, but there was no other escape route for terrified residents trapped in their basements for months.

Racing through the dust as fast as their vehicles could take, Andy Milburn, a British-American former US Marine colonel, and his team of military veterans knew they could be seen by Russian drones or spotters on the surrounding slag heaps, but had decided their humanitarian mission was worth the gamble.

“We wanted to get in from behind the town so we were masked from Russian artillery, but the Russians have every surface road dialled in [registered], so very quickly within seconds they can bring rounds down on vehicles travelling on it,” he said.

Read the full story here.

01:58 PM

Street clashes taking place in Lysychansk, pro-Russian separatists claim

Russian troops and allies have entered Lysychansk and street fighting is under way in the eastern Ukrainian city neighbouring its strategic twin Severodonetsk, pro-Moscow separatists have said.

"The people's militia of the Lugansk People's Republic and the Russian army have entered the city of Lysychansk... Street fighting is currently taking place," a representative for pro-Russian separatists, Andrei Marochko, said on Telegram.

01:22 PM

Ukraine's MFA shares latest figures on Russian losses

01:21 PM

Russian protests over Ukraine and Moldova EU bids show weakness, Kyiv says

Russia's protests over the EU giving Ukraine and Moldova candidate status show Moscow's weakness, Ukraine's top diplomat said on Saturday.

"After decades of lost policies based on aggression, coercion and lack of respect, all that Russia can do now is to spit threats against other states," Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Twitter. "All it does is show Russia's weakness."

"We are by the side of the government and the people of our friend Moldova in the face of renewed threats coming from Moscow," he said.

The European Union on Thursday said it was granting official candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova.

On Friday, Russia's foreign ministry condemned the decision as a move to "contain Russia" geopolitically.

12:48 PM

Russia claims its troops have killed 'up to 80' Polish fighters in Ukraine

Russia has claimed that its troops have killed "up to 80" Polish fighters in "precision strikes" in eastern Ukraine.

"Up to 80 Polish mercenaries, 20 armoured combat vehicles and eight Grad multiple rocket launchers were destroyed in precision strikes on the Megatex zinc factory in Konstantinovka" in the Donetsk region, the Russian defence ministry said in a statement, which could not be independently verified.

The region, claimed by Russia, has been the theatre of combat since Moscow began its offensive in Ukraine in late February.

The Russian ministry did not state when the strikes took place. In its statement, the ministry added that "more than 300 Ukrainian troops and foreign mercenaries as well as 35 heavy weapons were destroyed in the space of a day in Mykolaiv," a Black Sea city in southern Ukraine.

11:40 AM

Ukraine stands with Moldova against threats from Russia, country's foreign minister says

Ukraine stands with Moldova in response to renewed threats from Russia, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Saturday, after Moscow warned of negative consequences over the two countries becoming candidates for EU membership.

"We stand with the people and the government of friendly Moldova amid renewed threats coming from Moscow. All Russia has left is spitting out threats at other states after decades of failed policies based on aggression, coercion, and disrespect," Mr Kuleba said on Twitter.

11:20 AM

Ukraine already using US-supplied rocket systems in conflict, top general says

US-supplied HIMARS rocket systems are already working and hitting targets in Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine, the country's top general said on Saturday.

"Artillerymen of the Armed Forces of Ukraine skillfully hit certain targets - military targets of the enemy on our, Ukrainian, territory," Chief of Ukraine's General Staff Valeriy Zaluzhnyi wrote on the Telegram app.

11:06 AM

The MoD's latest update

10:57 AM

Ukraine says Russia aiming to drag Belarus into war

Ukraine's intelligence service said on Saturday that Russia was aiming to drag Belarus into the war, after missiles were fired from Belarusian territory into a northern border region.

"Today's strike is directly linked to Kremlin efforts to pull Belarus as a co-belligerent into the war in Ukraine," the Ukrainian intelligence service, which is part of the defence ministry, said on Telegram.

10:28 AM

Russia removes Polish flag from Soviet massacre memorial

Russian authorities have removed a Polish flag from a memorial commemorating the thousands of Poles killed by the Soviet Union, amid heightened tensions between Moscow and Warsaw over the Ukraine conflict.

Historians and visitors to the Katyn memorial in western Russia's Smolensk region noted the flag's disappearance on social media on Friday.

The mayor of Smolensk city confirmed the removal on Friday evening, publishing a photo showing the Russian flag flying alone at the memorial's entrance.

"There cannot be Polish flags on Russian monuments. Even less so after the frankly anti-Russian comments by Polish political leaders," Andrei Borisov said on social media platform VKontakte.

"The culture ministry of the Russian Federation made the right decision by removing the Polish flag. Katyn is a Russian memorial."

10:26 AM

The latest pictures from Ukraine

A woman sits on a bench in front of a destroyed building as the residents of Andriivka village try to maintain their lives under difficult conditions - Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
A woman sits on a bench in front of a destroyed building as the residents of Andriivka village try to maintain their lives under difficult conditions - Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
A view from the National Technical University's "Kharkiv Polytechnic Institute" after being hit by a Russian missile in Kharkiv, Ukraine - Sofia Bobok/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
A view from the National Technical University's "Kharkiv Polytechnic Institute" after being hit by a Russian missile in Kharkiv, Ukraine - Sofia Bobok/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
s - SERGEY BOBOK/AFP via Getty Images
s - SERGEY BOBOK/AFP via Getty Images

09:55 AM

Chernihiv comes under 'massive bombardment

Ukraine's northern border region of Chernihiv came under "massive bombardment" fired from the territory of Russia's ally Belarus, the Ukrainian army said in a statement on Saturday.

"Around 5:00 o'clock in the morning (0200 GMT) the Chernihivregion suffered a massive bombardment by missiles. Twenty rockets, fired from the territory of Belarus and from the air, targeted the village of Desna," Ukraine's northern military command wrote on Facebook, adding that there were no reports of victims so far.

09:22 AM

Russian shelling hits chemical plant where civilians trapped, says Ukraine

Russia launched artillery and air strikes on the twin cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk on Saturday, hitting a chemical plant where hundreds of civilians were trapped, a Ukrainian official said.

Serhiy Gaidai, governor of the Luhansk region, said Russian forces attacked Sievierodentsk's industrial zone and also attempted to enter and blockade Lysychansk.

"There was an air strike at Lysychansk. Severodonetsk was hit by artillery," Mr Gaidai said on the Telegram messaging app, adding the Azot chemical plant in Severodonetsk and the villages of Synetsky and Pavlograd and others were shelled.

He made no mention of casualties at the Azot chemical plant and Reuters could not immediately verify the information.

09:14 AM

Russian missiles rain down on military sites across Ukraine, local officials say

Dozens of Russian missiles rained down on military facilities in western and northern Ukraine on Saturday, local officials said, as Europe's biggest land conflict since World War Two entered its fifth month.

The governor of the Lviv region in western Ukraine, Maxim Kozytskyi, said in a video posted online that six missiles were fired from the Black Sea at the Yavoriv base, with four hitting the base and two being intercepted and destroyed before hitting their target.

Vitaliy Bunechko, governor of the Zhytomyr region in the north of the country, said strikes on a military target killed at least one soldier.

"Nearly 30 missiles were launched at one military infrastructure facility very near to the city of Zhytomyr," said Bunechko, adding that nearly 10 missiles had been intercepted and destroyed.

In the Chernihiv region, also in the north, governor Vyacheslav Chaus said the small town of Desna had come under "massed" rocket strikes on Saturday morning. Chaus did not specify what had been hit, but said there had been "infrastructure damage." There were no casualties, he added.

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