Belarus overhauls military training, arms procurement: Top official
A top Belarus aide says the country overhauled its military training and arms procurement in light of the regional changes taking place.
The Belarusian Defense Ministry has revised its military training and weapon acquisition and reequipment programs, said Sunday Leonid Kasinsky, the advisor to the Belarusian army commander.
"We have drastically revised combat training programs and made conclusions regarding the procurement, modernization, and re-equipment of the armed forces with advanced weapons and hardware," he told the ONT public broadcaster.
Russian President Vladimir Putin stated back in March that Minsk would not be given control of any nuclear weapons in Belarus.
The Belarusian air force has been re-equipped to carry nuclear-capable missiles, and soldiers have finished training to operate Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile systems and Iskander short-range ballistic missile systems, according to Kasinsky, who spoke to ONT.
Putin announced in late March that Russian tactical nuclear weapons would be placed in Belarus, with the storage sites for weapons expected to be finished by July 1.
According to the Russian President, the move does not breach Russia's commitments to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons since Moscow will not hand over control of the weapons to Minsk.
Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia affirmed on Friday that Russia is not violating its non-proliferation commitments by deploying tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.
Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia said Russia was not violating its non-proliferation commitments by deploying tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.
"President Putin was clear about the fact that we are not transferring nuclear weapons. We are talking about the transfer of the Iskander-M operational-tactical missile system to the Republic of Belarus, the reequipment of aircraft of the Belarusian Air Force and the training of crews, the construction of a special storage facility for tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus," Nebenzia told the UN Security Council.
Those weapons will not be operated by Belarus, Nebenzia noted, adding that they will remain under Russia's control.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said earlier that he could reach an agreement with Putin on the deployment of strategic nuclear weapons in Belarus if deemed necessary for the protection of the country.
Washington has denounced the plan, with the EU threatening Belarus with sanctions, although the Pentagon and NATO noted that there are no indications that Russia is preparing to use nuclear weapons.
Belarus confirmed that the decision comes in response to years of Western pressure, including sanctions, as well as the military-build up by NATO member states near its borders.
In a statement, the Belarusian Foreign Ministry said the move will offer the country protection from the United States and its allies, who continue to exert pressure on Lukashenko’s government.