Belarus Joins Russia in Nuclear Exercises Amid Rising Tensions

Belarus Joins Russia in Nuclear Exercises Amid Rising Tensions

Belarus announced its participation in Russian nuclear exercises, marking the second phase of drills aimed at enhancing tactical nuclear readiness.

Belarus confirmed on Monday that its military is participating in the second phase of Russian-led exercises to practice deploying tactical nuclear weapons, following an initial stage conducted in southern Russia last month. These exercises, ordered by President Vladimir Putin, are seen by nuclear analysts as a strategic warning to deter further Western involvement in the Ukraine conflict.

Belarusian Defence Minister Lieutenant General Viktor Khrenin described the exercises as a proactive measure to “increase our readiness to use so-called retaliatory weapons.” He emphasized the joint commitment of Belarus and Russia to respond to any threats against the Union State.

“Now, more than ever before, we are determined to respond to any threats posed to both our country and the Union State,” Khrenin stated. While he did not disclose the location or specific weapons involved in the exercises, Belarus shares borders with NATO member countries Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia.

Khrenin also reassured that Belarus does not seek to escalate regional security tensions, stating, “We are a peaceful state, we do not threaten or seek confrontation with anyone, but we will keep our powder dry.”

Last year, Putin and Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko announced the relocation of some Russian tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus. These tactical warheads are intended for battlefield use, unlike strategic nuclear weapons designed to destroy entire cities. Some Western analysts believe these weapons have gained greater strategic importance for Moscow since the start of the Ukraine war, where Russian conventional forces have faced significant challenges.

The theoretical use of tactical nuclear weapons could deliver a significant shock to the West without triggering a full-scale nuclear war, though the risk of escalation remains high. Since the beginning of the war, Putin has frequently highlighted the strength of Russia’s nuclear arsenal.

There was no immediate statement from Russia regarding the current exercises with Belarus, although Moscow had previously announced their occurrence. The first phase of the exercises last month took place in the Akhtubinsk region of southern Russia, involving Iskander and Kinzhal missiles.

Russia’s foreign ministry expressed hope that these exercises would “cool the hot heads in Western capitals,” following comments from French President Emmanuel Macron about potentially sending European troops to Ukraine and British Foreign Secretary David Cameron’s support for Ukraine using Western-provided weapons to strike targets inside Russia.

Ukraine Targets Russian Air Defence Systems in Crimea

Ukraine’s military reported successful missile strikes on three Russian surface-to-air defense systems in the Moscow-occupied Crimea peninsula, causing significant losses for Russian air defenses. The attacks targeted an S-400 system in Dzhankoi and two S-300 systems near Yevpatoriya and Chornomorske.

Ukraine’s general staff stated that the strikes shut down radars on the Russian systems and detonated ammunition, resulting in “significant losses.” No immediate comment was available from the Russian defense ministry, but local reports confirmed explosions near Dzhankoi and Yevpatoriya.

“None of our missiles were intercepted by the enemy’s ‘highly effective’ air defences,” Ukraine’s military declared on its Telegram account.

Russia has repeatedly launched ballistic missiles at southern Ukraine from Crimea, which it annexed in 2014. Over the past two years of Russia’s full-scale invasion, Ukraine has conducted numerous air and naval strikes on Russian targets in Crimea, significantly damaging Moscow’s Black Sea fleet.

On May 30, Ukraine reported damaging two ferries in Crimea, disrupting their operations between the peninsula and the Russian mainland. These ferries had served as backups for the 18-km Russian-built bridge that Ukraine had previously targeted.