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Russia and Belarus kick off second phase of nuclear weapon drills

Russian troops prepare a missile launcher for joint Russian-Belarusian drills intended to train the military to use tactical nuclear weapons, 10 June 2024
Russian troops prepare a missile launcher for joint Russian-Belarusian drills intended to train the military to use tactical nuclear weapons, 10 June 2024 Copyright Russian Defence Ministry Press Service via AP
Copyright Russian Defence Ministry Press Service via AP
By Euronews
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The exercise takes place only days before the start of the Ukraine Peace Summit in Switzerland.

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Russia and its ally Belarus have begun a new phase of joint nuclear drills, the second of three scheduled tests.

The two armies rolled out fighter jets and tanks in an exercise aimed at showing the world the readiness of their military partnership.

For Minsk, the drills were a way to "increase our readiness to use so-called retaliatory weapons," Belarusian Defence Minister Lt Gen Viktor Khrenin said in the run-up to the second phase.

Although it's not directly participating in the invasion of Ukraine and has no nuclear weapons of its own, Belarus has been hosting some of the Russian tactical nuclear arsenals on its territory since last year.

Commenting on the drills, Russia's defence ministry said Moscow is "consistently improving its defence capabilities" to protect its sovereignty.

Since Moscow's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, President Vladimir Putin has frequently threatened the West to use nuclear weapons if Russia's territory is attacked.

A pilot sits in a cockpit of a MiG-31 fighter jet during joint Russian-Belarusian drills intended to train the military to use tactical nuclear weapons, 10 June 2024
A pilot sits in a cockpit of a MiG-31 fighter jet during joint Russian-Belarusian drills intended to train the military to use tactical nuclear weapons, 10 June 2024AP/Russian Defense Ministry Press Service

Analysts say the nuclear sabre-rattling from Moscow is being used as a tool to dissuade Western powers from allowing Ukraine to strike targets in Russian territory with their weapons.

Tactical nuclear weapons are less powerful than conventional nuclear weapons and can be used on the battlefield, even in proximity to friendly forces.

Many believe that Moscow sees the potential use of these weapons would serve as a shock but might not lead to an outright nuclear war. None of the countries that have tactical nukes in their arsenal have ever used them outside of testing grounds.

The drills began only days before the Ukraine Peace Summit in Switzerland, set to take place on Saturday.

While around 90 countries were going to take part, Russia was not invited, and Beijing said China would not join.

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