NUCLEAR weapons newly deployed by Vladimir Putin could obliterate Kyiv and Nato capitals in just two minutes.
The Iskander missiles have been sent to the Belarus, whose leader is a close ally of the Russian tyrant, in major escalation of tensions in the Ukraine war.
The Mach 7 missiles could hit the Warsaw and Vilnius, the capital cities of Nato countries Poland and Lithuania in two minutes.
The tactical nuclear weapons could also hit the Ukrainian capital Kyiv in that time.
Tactical nuclear weapons are intended for use on the battlefield, unlike more powerful, longer-range strategic nuclear weapons.
Putin insisted the move was the same “as the United States has been doing for decades”.
“We agreed that we will do the same – without violating our obligations, I emphasise, without violating our international obligations on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons,” he said.
Russia has stationed 10 aircraft in Belarus capable of carrying tactical nuclear weapons, he added.
Crews will start training on April 3 and plans to finish the construction of a special storage facility for tactical nuclear weapons by July 1. Moscow would not actually be transferring control of the arms to Minsk.
Western allies called the analogy “misleading” as these weapons are stored under the agreement.
Both Germany and Nato said the parallel drawn by Putin to justify the deployment was wrong.
“The comparison made by President Putin to nuclear sharing in NATO is misleading and does not justify the step announced by Russia,” said an official in the German foreign office said.
But Ukraine has said it was as seeking an emergency meeting of the United Nation’s Security Council to counter Russia’s “nuclear blackmail”.
Oleksiy Danilov, chair of Ukraine’s national security council, wrote on Twitter: “The Kremlin took Belarus as a nuclear hostage.”
A senior adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky said Putin’s nuclear sabre-rattling comes from a position of weakness.
“Making a statement about tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, he admits that he is afraid of losing and all he can do is scare with tactics,” he said.
Russia has used Belarus as a staging ground to send troops into Ukraine since the invasion began on February 24, 2002, and Moscow and Minsk have maintained close military ties.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko had long raised the issue of stationing tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus
Before the war began, back in November 2021, Lukashenko demanded Russian handover nuclear weapons to deploy in the south and west of the country.
The Belarus leader staged a referendum to change the constitution to allow for the deployment.
After his invasion began to go wrong in the face of heroic Ukrainian resistance, Putin started to raise the spectre of using nuclear weapons.
As new announced a mass mobilisation of Russian troops he ranted: “Our country has various means of defence, and in some components more advanced than those of Nato countries.
“When the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will use all the means at our disposal to defend Russia and our people. This is not a bluff.”
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