Published On: Wed, May 8th, 2024
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Nato on WW3 alert as Putin ally tests tactical nukes in major boost | World | News

NATO countries were put on red alert yesterday, after Belarus announced it would be carrying out drills with its Russian tactical nuclear weapons – in a major boost to Vladimir Putin.

The exercises follow a stark warning by the Kremlin that tensions between Russia and the West were reaching a “critical mass” and could “explode”.

Last year Russia moved some of its tactical nuclear weapons into Belarus, which also borders Ukraine and NATO members Poland, Latvia and Lithuania. Part of the consignment of weapons included Iskander short range ballistic missiles, capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

The lethal rocket can travel up to 500 km (311 miles) and is able to carry payloads of between 480 and 700 kg.

On Tuesday Belarus carried out exercises with the Iskanders and a squadron of Su-25 fighter jets.

The Belarusian manoeuvres began a day after Russia announced plans to hold similar drills and prompted fears that Minsk could be preparing to play a bigger part in the war in Ukraine.

Belarus’ Defence Minister Viktor Khrenin said it was necessary to check “the entire range of activities from planning, preparation and use of strikes with tactical nuclear weapons.”

The Secretary of the Security Council Alexander Volfovich added the drills were synchronised with Russia, which insists its tactical nukes in Belarus remain under the Kremlin’s control.

The deployment of tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus would allow Russian aircraft and missiles to reach potential targets Ukraine more easily and quickly than if they were launched from inside Russia.

It also extends Russia’s capability to target several NATO allies in Eastern and Central Europe.

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko described the drills as “exclusively defensive” and said the weapons were there to Deere any potential attack on the country.

He added the drills would involve the delivery of tactical nuclear warheads from storage to military units where they will be mounted on missiles and attached to warplanes.

The missile units would then practice covert deployment to firing positions to simulate a response to an attack on Belarus, he said.

Opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya denounced the deployment of Russian nuclear weapons to Belarus after a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday.

“Nuclear weapons turn Belarus and Belarusians into targets,” she said.

“The Russian nuclear weapons in Belarus raise a direct threat to lives and health of citizens of all Europe.”

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