Putin drafts biggest ally to ramp up nuclear drills amid Western ‘threats’

Belarus and Russia have begun joint exercises with nuclear weapons (Picture: PA)

Vladimir Putin is drafting his biggest ally to ramp up nuclear exercises amid ‘provocative statements and threats’ by the West against Russia.

Belarus and Russia have begun joint practice launches of nonstrategic nuclear weapons.

The exercises began on May 21 in Russia’s Southern Military District amid further financial support from Nato for Ukraine.

Since last year, the Kremlin has been using Belarus as a staging area to stage its nukes, a move which has worried Western leaders.

In 2023, Belarusian president Aleksandr Lukashenko announced the first ‘missiles and bombs’ had arrived in the country on Russian state television.

When the presenter asked him to confirm if Belarus had received weapons sooner than expected, he replied: ‘Not all of them. Gradually.’

Russian forces are understood to be involved (Picture: AFP)

Tactical nuclear weapons include air bombs, warheads for short-range missiles and artillery munitions and are meant for use on a battlefield.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that such drills and maintaining combat readiness are important in view of the ‘hostile decisions and actions’ by the US and its allies in Europe and their ‘daily provocations’.

He stressed that the exercise is aimed at maintaining readiness of personnel and equipment to ensure ‘sovereignty and territorial integrity’ of the alliance of Russia and Belarus.

The first stage of the exercise last month envisaged a preparation for nuclear missions and deployment for launches, according to the Defence Ministry.

Lukashenko has welcomed the weapons into his country (Picture: Getty)

The Russian military had trained separately during the initial stage of the manoeuvres before joint drills with Belarusian forces.

Since invading Ukraine, Putin has repeatedly warned Russia would be ready to use nuclear weapons if needed to defend its ‘territorial integrity’.

Speaking in Minsk last year, Russia’s former defence minister Sergei Shoigu said: ‘In the context of an extremely sharp escalation of threats on the western borders of Russia and Belarus, a decision was made to take countermeasures in the military-nuclear sphere.’

Iskander-M missiles, which can carry conventional or nuclear warheads, have been handed to Belarusian armed forces, and some Su-25 aircraft had been converted for the possible use of nuclear weapons.

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