Russia has Trained Belarus Pilots to Deploy Nuclear Weapons, They Say

MOSCOW (AP) – Crew members of the Belarusian Air Force have completed training to use tactical nuclear weapons as part of Russia’s plan to deploy the weapons to ally Belarus amid fighting in neighboring Ukraine, officials said. Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Friday.

The ministry released a video in which a Belarusian pilot said a training course in Russia had given the crews of the Belarusian Air Force’s Su-25 ground attack aircraft the skills they needed to use the weapon.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced last month that Russia plans to deploy some of its tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus. It was another attempt by Kremlin leaders to dangle the nuclear threat to dissuade the West from supporting Ukraine.

Russia has a union agreement with Belarus that assumes close political, economic and military ties. Russian forces maintain a presence in Belarus, using Belarusian territory to invade Ukraine from the north in February 2022.

The deployment of Russian tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus brings it closer to potential targets in Ukraine and NATO member states in Eastern and Central Europe. Belarus shares a 1,250-kilometer (778-mile) border with NATO member states Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

Such weapons are intended to destroy enemy forces on the battlefield. They have a relatively short range and much less power compared to nuclear warheads mounted on long-range strategic missiles capable of destroying entire cities.

Putin said the construction of a storage facility for tactical nuclear weapons would be completed in Belarus by July 1. Nuclear warheads.

Putin has stressed that Russia will maintain control of the nuclear weapons deployed in Belarus, just as the United States controls tactical nuclear weapons on NATO allies’ territories.

Belarus’ authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko, has suggested that some of Russia’s strategic nuclear weapons could be deployed in Belarus, along with some of Moscow’s tactical nuclear weapons.

Belarus’ Defense Minister Viktor Vlenin said on Friday that “it could be the next step” if the West continues its hostile policy.

“Force can only be met by force. Otherwise they won’t understand it in the West,” said Krennin.

Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine had Soviet nuclear weapons on their territory, which were handed over to Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

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