Russia will place nuclear weapons in Belarus – Putin
Russian tactical nuclear weapons might arrive in Belarus as early as this summer, Russian President Vladimir Putin revealed on Saturday. Moscow is completing the construction of a specialized storage facility for such arms, amid repeated calls by Minsk to deploy them on its soil, he added.
The site in Belarus will be ready by July 1, Putin told Russia 24 TV. The president also said that Moscow does not plan to hand over control of any tactical nuclear weapons to Minsk and that it would only deploy its own arms to Belarus. He did not specify when exactly the weapons would be transported to the new site.
The move was prompted by the UK’s decision to provide Kiev with depleted uranium munitions, Putin explained. The UK announced earlier in March that it plans to send the shells to Ukraine for use with Challenger 2 battle tanks. Moscow blasted the move as a sign of “absolute recklessness, irresponsibility and impunity” on the part of London and Washington.
The US dismissed Russia’s concerns by calling depleted uranium shells a “commonplace type of munition” that has “been in use for decades.” The Russian Defense Ministry then warned that their use could trigger nothing short of a radioactive disaster in Ukraine, citing the aftermath of the use of such munitions by NATO in Iraq.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has repeatedly raised the issue of threats posed to his nation by nuclear weapons deployed by the US to EU countries. In October 2022, he pointed to “nuclear sharing” talks between Washington and Warsaw, warning that nuclear weapons could be placed in Poland, which borders Belarus.
Minsk needs to take “appropriate measures” to address this threat, Lukashenko said at that time, adding that he would discuss the matter with Moscow.
Currently, US nuclear weapons are deployed in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Türkiye. In 2021, Russia called on the weapons to be repatriated as part of its security proposals, but the US and NATO refused.
** Ukrainians lose more than 155 personnel in Donetsk direction, Russian top brass reports
The Russian armed forces eliminated more than 155 Ukrainian servicemen and a D-30 howitzer in the Donetsk area in the past 24 hours, the Russian Defense Ministry’s spokesman, Lieutenant-General Igor Konashenkov, reported on Saturday.
"In the Donetsk direction, over 155 Ukrainian servicemen, three armored combat vehicles, five cars and a D-30 howitzer were destroyed as a result of active operations by units and artillery of the southern battlegroup," he said.
Situation in the Kharkov Region
"Army aviation and artillery of the western group of forces struck Ukrainian units near Dvurechnaya and Timkovka in the Kharkov Region. The enemy’s losses amounted to roughly 55 Ukrainian personnel, two armored vehicles and two cars," the general added.
In the Kherson area
"In the Kherson area, up to 35 Ukrainian soldiers, 10 cars and a Gvozdika self-propelled howitzer were eliminated as a result of damage inflicted by firepower," Konashenkov reported.
In the Krasny Liman direction
"In the Krasny Liman direction, assault and army aviation aircraft, artillery and units of the battlegroup Center inflicted damage on the enemy manpower and equipment in areas near the settlements of Chervonaya Dibrova in the Lugansk People’s Republic, and Yampolovka and Terny in the Donetsk People’s Republic in their active operations," the spokesman said.
According to Konashenkov, over 85 Ukrainian servicemen, two armored vehicles, three pickups and a D-30 howitzer were wiped out in this direction in the past day.
Southern Donetsk, Zaporozhye areas
In the southern Donetsk and Zaporozhye directions, aircraft and artillery of the battlegroup East struck the Ukrainian army units near the communities of Ugledar and Novomikhailovka in the Donetsk People’s Republic, the spokesman said.
"The enemy’s losses totaled as many as 70 Ukrainian personnel, three motor vehicles, and a D-20 howitzers in those directions," the general specified.
Ukraine says Bakhmut situation is stabilising, Putin plays down tank shortage
Ukrainian forces have managed to blunt Russia's offensive in and around the embattled eastern city of Bakhmut, where the situation is stabilising, commander in chief General Valery Zaluzhniy said on Saturday.
Separately, Britain's defence ministry said the months-long Russian assault on the city had stalled, mainly as a result of heavy troop losses.
Military experts say there are clear signs Russia is running short of equipment, particularly heavy tanks.
President Vladimir Putin told state television that Russia planned to build and upgrade a total of 1,600 tanks over the next three years, well above the 440 he said Western nations would supply Ukraine over the same period.
Bakhmut is a major Russian target as it bids to fully capture Ukraine's industrialised Donbas region. At one point Russian commanders expressed confidence the city would fall soon but such claims have tailed off amid heavy fighting.
"The Bakhmut direction is the most difficult. Thanks to the titanic efforts of the defence forces, the situation is being stabilised," Zaluzhniy said in a post on Telegram after a conversation with British counterpart Tony Radakin.
Russian attacks in and around Bakhmut have dropped to fewer than 20 a day compared with 30 or more in recent days, the Novoe Vremia online news outlet cited Ukrainian military spokesperson Serhiy Cherevaty as saying.
As well as promising more tanks Putin also reiterated his criticism of British plansto supply Ukraine with battle tank ammunition that contained depleted uranium.
"Russia has, of course, something to respond with. We have, without exaggeration, hundreds of thousands, yes hundreds of thousands of such shells. We have not used them yet," he said.
Pro-Moscow forces are also attacking positions farther south at Avdiivka on the outskirts of the Russian-held city of Donetsk, as well as farther north, at Svatove.
The British defence ministry, in a daily update, said Russia most likely wanted to stabilise its front lines and would adopt a more defensive operational stance.
The general staff of the Ukrainian armed forces said in a Facebook post that Russian attacks in and around Avdiivka had been repelled on Saturday, but gave few details.