Nuclear threat to Europe as first batch of warheads arrive in Belarus

Ukraine: Russian soldier surrenders to drone in Bakhmut

A first batch of Russian nuclear weapons reached Belarus yesterday as Vladimir Putin’s regime warned it may strike Europe to break the West’s support for Ukraine.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko – one of Putin’s few remaining allies – said the warheads were three times more powerful than the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

He told Russian state TV: “We have missiles and bombs that we have received from Russia,” adding there would be “no hesitation” in using them against Western aggression.

Senior Kremlin adviser Sergei Karaganov said the weapons may be used to break the West’s resolve and Russia might warn its citizens living abroad to leave areas near potential targets. The hardliner claimed there was little chance the US would retaliate to nuclear strikes on Europe.

President Putin earlier threatened that his invasion of Ukraine might turn nuclear, adding that “there will be no winners, including America”.

The deployment to Belarus, which borders both Ukraine and Russia, is Moscow’s first movement of such warheads outside its frontiers since the fall of the former Soviet Union.

Their dispatch came days after Putin said Russia would site them in Belarus once storage was ready.

But the nuclear sabre-rattling came as Russia’s strategy was in disarray with growing political infighting between Kremlin chiefs and frontline forces. The head of the powerful mercenary Wagner Group said he was “not sure” if his men would keep fighting.

In a stand-off with defence officials after taking Bakhmut – now besieged by Kyiv’s latest advance – Yevgeny Prigozhin painted a picture of a rift with Putin and his Russian military taskmasters. Prigozhin has long been at odds with the Russian Defence Ministry over poor leadership and shortages of ammunition.

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Meanwhile, Putin claimed that Ukraine’s counter-offensive was failing, with its army suffering “catastrophic” losses including 160 tanks – compared with Russia’s 54.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky denied his attack was stalling. In his nightly address to the nation he said: “There is movement forward” and he thanked his soldiers for “every step and every metre of Ukrainian land that is being liberated from Russian evil”.

His military chiefs claimed that Russia had lost 680 soldiers, eight tanks and an air defence system in just 24 hours.

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