Belarus claims that Russia is providing it with nuclear weapons

Russia is carrying out its threats and has begun delivering nuclear weapons to EU neighbor Belarus, President Alexander Lukashenko said on Thursday, as Russian forces remain in a fragile position in Ukraine that threatens an imminent retaliatory strike by Ukrainian forces. is pending.

Mr Lukashenko, who was in Moscow on Thursday for a regional summit, was unable to say whether the weapons were already in his country, but explained that his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, who in March brandished the threat , told him that the day before he had signed the decree allowing the transfer.

“The transfer of nuclear charges has begun,” Lukashenko said in a video posted on Telegram.

Russia did not immediately comment on its side.

The Russian president announced on March 25 that Moscow would deploy “strategic” nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus, a country that borders Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine, sparking fears of an ongoing conflict in the latter country. giving air to

Russia’s strategic nuclear arsenal (AFP – Valentin Rakovsky)

The announcement was strongly condemned by the international community, especially Western countries, especially since the Russian leader has raised the possibility of resorting to nuclear weapons since the beginning of his attack on his Ukrainian neighbor in February 2022. .

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, an oppositionist in exile, condemned the threat on Twitter on Thursday “to the whole of Europe”.

“When it comes to tactical nuclear, most are as powerful as what killed 140,000 people in Hiroshima,” he said.

– Wagner leaves Bakhmout –

On the ground in Ukraine, the paramilitary group Wagner has begun the transfer of its positions in the devastated town of Bakhmout (East) to the Russian regular army.

The operation comes at a time when Russian forces are in a vulnerable position, having lost 20 square kilometers in the north and south according to Ukrainians.

“We are in the process of withdrawing units from Bakhmut today. By June 1, most of them will be transferred to rear bases,” Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin said in a video broadcast on Telegram.

A Ukrainian deputy defense minister, Ganna Maliar, confirmed that Wagner’s men had abandoned their positions to Russian regular troops “on the outskirts of Bakhmut”. He said Ukrainian forces were gaining a foothold southwest of this industrial city, the scene of the longest and deadliest fighting of the Russian offensive.

Mr Prigogine on Wednesday pegged the number of deaths in his group’s ranks on 10,000 prisoners recruited from Russian prisons and a similar proportion to their professional fighters, not the exact amount.

Ukraine says it is counting on its success around the city to achieve its “strategic encirclement”.

“The (Russian) enemy is trying to stop our advance with artillery fire. They are reinforcing the flanks with additional units,” Maliar said on Thursday.

The Ukrainian Air Force reported overnight a new Russian attack by 36 Iranian-made Martyr drones in the south of the country, all of which were destroyed.

Russia “continues to terrorize Ukraine” with its nightly attacks, President Volodymyr Zelensky condemned in a telegram.

Russian officials on the Crimean peninsula, annexed by Moscow in 2014, said they shot down six Ukrainian drones overnight.

The Russian military also said it had dispatched fighter jets to prevent two US strategic bombers from violating its border over the Baltic Sea for a second time this week.

– Pressure on China –

In Russia itself, authorities on Monday and Tuesday faced the biggest armed incursion by a group of fighters from Ukraine since the conflict began.

One of the two organizations claiming responsibility, the “Russian Independence Army”, which is considered “terrorist” by Moscow, announced on Telegram on Wednesday evening that two in its ranks were killed and 10 wounded during the intrusion . Moscow claimed to have killed “more than 70” attackers.

At the diplomatic level, the European Union on Thursday asked China to use its influence on Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine.

Before leaving for Moscow on Friday, Beijing’s envoy Li Hui was received in Brussels by Enrique Mora, the right-hand man of European diplomacy chief Josep Borrell.

“The EU expects China, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, to immediately and unconditionally withdraw all Russian military forces and equipment from all Ukrainian territories,” he said, outlining a press release from EU diplomacy. will work for.”

In Paris, about twenty representatives of the Russian opposition in exile met on Wednesday to talk about “deputation” of the country with the defeat of Moscow’s forces in Ukraine as a condition.

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