Belarus posts Russian Iskander missile systems amid tensions with the West: Lukashenko
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko says he plans to deploy Russian nuclear-capable Iskander missile systems in the south and west of the country amid growing tensions with Brussels over a migrant crisis on the border with Poland.
Lukashenko announced on Saturday plans to deploy the Iskander mobile ballistic missile system, which has a range of up to 500 kilometers and can carry both conventional and nuclear warheads.
“I need several divisions in the west and south, leave them (there),” he said in an interview with a Russian defense magazine, referring to the Belarusian border with EU members Poland and Lithuania in the west and Ukraine in the south .
Lukashenko did not say whether he had held talks with Moscow about preserving the missile system.
Belarus, a close ally of Russia, has been accused by the EU of creating a crisis on its border by flying in thousands of asylum seekers and forcing them to enter Poland. Brussels is also preparing to impose sanctions on Minsk.
Poland has closed its border with Belarus as hundreds of migrants trying to enter the European Union have been stranded on the border between the two countries in freezing temperatures. It has also dispatched hundreds of troops to the border, erected a fence with barbed wire, and approved the construction of a wall.
Ukraine, meanwhile, announced exercises and the deployment of 8,500 additional soldiers and police officers on the country’s long northern border with Belarus.
Belarus’ neighboring countries warned on Thursday that the refugee crisis could escalate into a military confrontation.
Ukraine wants to accelerate the construction of naval bases in the Sea of Azov
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said Saturday that the country would hasten construction of a naval base in the port city of Berdyansk on the north coast of the Azov Sea to prevent what Kiev calls a gradual attempt by Moscow to take control of the strategic sea .
“The relevant instructions are being given to expedite the construction of the naval base,” Reznikov said in a statement, adding that it is vital for Ukraine to strengthen its naval forces.
The Ukrainian Defense Minister announced the plans after a trip to Berdyansk that followed Western warnings earlier this week about Russian troop movements near the Ukrainian border and a possible attack.
Russia categorically denied the possibility of an attack, accusing Washington of aggressive steps and increased activity in the Black Sea, where Ukraine and the US held military exercises on Saturday.
Ukraine announced it would establish a base in Berdyansk in 2018 after losing its military bases on the Crimean peninsula, which rejoined Russia after a 2014 referendum.
Russia has in the past rejected allegations of wanting to take control of the Sea of Azov.
“Russia has almost 100,000 soldiers near the Ukrainian border”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky claimed in media reports released on Saturday that nearly 100,000 Russian soldiers are near the Ukrainian border.
Zelensky added that western countries had shared information on active Russian troop movements near the Ukrainian border to Kiev, which had fueled fears of a possible attack.
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry had estimated the number of Russian troops near the Ukrainian border at 90,000 earlier this month.