Belarus army conducts surprise check of combat readiness
The Belarusian military appears to have completed the construction of a new garage for Russian Iskander missile launchers, according to a US think tank.
The development would further credence to Russian claims that it has already delivered tactical nuclear weapons to its western neighbour.
The Federation of American Scientists say the new facility was added to an existing base in Osipovichi in central Belarus, which is home to the 465th Missile Brigade.
A Maxar satellite image taken on July 4, 2023, shows what looks like four 13-metre Iskander launchers and two smaller support vehicles outside the garage.
The facility is located just 12 kilometres (7.3 miles) from a weapons depot that some experts believe is being transformed into a temporary nuclear warhead storage site.
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Osipovichi is the deployment area for the dual-capable Iskander (SS-26) launchers that Russia supplied to Belarus in 2022.
The 9K720 Iskander missile, which weighs up to four tonnes, can carry nuclear warheads and has a range of 400km (250 miles).
The Russian President claimed that the Kremlin has already deployed some of its short-range nuclear weapons to Belarus.
However, NATO boss Jens Stoltenberg said earlier in July that the alliance had not seen any change in Russia’s nuclear posture.
Although many security experts have poured cold water on Putin’s claims, others have pointed out that Moscow could easily transport the weapons without Western intelligence noticing.
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US security officials told CNN that they had no reason to doubt Putin’s claims, saying it would be difficult for their agents to track the movement of the weapons.
Tactical nuclear weapons are compact and can be used on bombs, missiles and artillery shells.
Moreover, they can be discreetly transported in trucks and planes.
Aliaksandr Alesin, an independent Minsk-based military analyst, said the weapons use containers that emit no radiation and could have been flown into Belarus without being detected.
“They easily fit in a regular Il-76 transport plane,” he told the AP agency.
“There are dozens of flights a day, and it’s very difficult to track down that special flight.
“The Americans could fail to monitor it.”
He added that Belarus has 25 underground facilities built during the Cold War for nuclear-tipped intermediate-range missiles that can withstand missile attacks.
Only five or six such depots could actually store tactical nuclear weapons, but the military operates at all of them to fool Western intelligence.
Tactical nuclear weapons for use against troops on the battlefield can have a yield as small as about 1 kiloton. The US bomb in Hiroshima in World War II was 15 kilotons.
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