President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that his deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, which he confirmed for the first time had already happened, reminded the West that he could not inflict a strategic defeat on Russia.
Speaking at Russia’s flagship economic forum in St Petersburg, Putin said Russian tactical nuclear warheads had already been delivered to close ally Belarus, but stressed he saw no need for Russia to use nuclear weapons for the time being.
“As you know, we were negotiating with our ally, (Belarusian President (Alexander) Lukashenko, for us to move part of these tactical nuclear weapons to the territory of Belarus – it happened,” Putin said.
“The first nuclear warheads were delivered to the territory of Belarus. But only the first, the first part. But we will do this work completely by the end of the summer or by the end of the year.
The move, Moscow’s first deployment of such warheads – shorter-range nuclear weapons that could potentially be used on the battlefield – outside Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union, was intended to warn the West to arm and support Ukraine, the Russian leader. said.
“…It is precisely as a deterrent so that anyone planning to inflict a strategic defeat on us is not oblivious to this circumstance,” Putin said, using a diplomatic term for a defeat so severe that the power Russian would be diminished. on the world stage for decades.
Lukashenko, a staunch ally of Putin, said on Tuesday evening that his country had begun receiving Russian tactical nuclear weapons that included about three times more powerful than the atomic bombs the United States dropped on Japan in 1945.
The Russian leader announced in March that he had agreed to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, pointing to the US deployment of such weapons in many European countries for many decades.
Putin says the West wants a strategic defeat
The United States criticized Putin’s decision but said it had no intention of changing its own position on strategic nuclear weapons and had seen no signs that Russia was preparing to use a nuclear weapon.
The Russian move is nevertheless being closely watched by Washington and its allies as well as by China, which has repeatedly warned against the use of nuclear weapons in the war in Ukraine.
Putin said the West was doing all it could to inflict a strategic defeat on Russia in Ukraine where Moscow is locked in Europe’s biggest ground war since World War II after invading its neighbor last year in what she called “a special military operation”.
But Russia did not need to resort to nuclear weapons for now, Putin said, pointing to no change in Moscow’s nuclear posture which only considers such a move if the existence of the Russian state is threatened .
“Nuclear weapons were made to ensure our security in the broadest sense and the existence of the Russian state, but we… have no such need (to use them),” Putin said. .
But he said talks with the West to reduce Russia’s vast nuclear arsenal, the largest in the world, were a failure.
“Just talking about it (the potential use of nuclear weapons) lowers the nuclear threshold. We have more than the NATO countries and they want to reduce our numbers. To hell with it,” Putin said.
Sounding defiant as he addressed his country’s political and business elite, he said a Ukrainian counter-offensive against Russian forces in Ukraine had so far had no significant success. kyiv’s forces were suffering heavy casualties and had “no chance” against the Russian army, he said.
Ukraine would soon run out of its own military equipment, making it totally dependent on material supplied by the West, which would compromise its ability to fight for long, he suggested.
Recalling his stated goals at the start of the war to “demilitarize” and “denazify” Ukraine, Putin said:
“As for demilitarization, Ukraine will soon stop using its own equipment. Nothing is left. Everything they fight over and everything they use is brought in from outside. Well, you can’t fight like this for long.
Putin warns against F-16s
Independent military analysts say Ukraine has outmatched the much larger Russian army in nearly 16 months of war, forcing it into major retreats around the cities of kyiv, Kharkiv and Kherson.
Ukrainian military leaders said Friday that advancing Ukrainian troops faced “desperate resistance” from Russian forces around the town of Bakhmut, which Russia captured last month after the longest battle of the war.
Ukraine claims to have recaptured seven villages and 100 km2 (38 sq mi) at the start of its counteroffensive.
But the Russian Defense Ministry said on Friday that its forces had repelled numerous counterattack attempts by the Ukrainian army at different points on the frontline in the past 24 hours, inflicting heavy casualties on Kiev forces. .
Putin said Western-supplied equipment, such as German-made Leopard tanks, was regularly destroyed and that if Kiev got American-made F-16 fighter jets from its allies, they would go up in flames as well.
“The F-16s will also burn, there is no doubt. But if they will be stationed outside Ukraine and used in combat operations, we will have to consider how and where to commit these resources used in combat operations against us.
This, he said, posed “a grave danger” of dragging NATO further into the conflict.
Belarus begins to receive Russian nuclear weapons – the president
Belarus will get Russian tactical nukes ‘within days’ – Lukashenko
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