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Russia delivers its first consignment of nuclear weapons to Belarus.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow had sent the first batch of nuclear weapons to neighboring Belarus after an agreement was signed last month.

“The first nuclear shipments have been delivered to the territory of Belarus,” Putin told a plenary session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, stressing that more forces will be deployed in the coming months.

“This is the first part. But by the end of the summer, by the end of the year, we will complete this work completely,” he said, describing the move as “a deterrent element.”

In late May, the Russian and Belarusian defense ministers signed an agreement on the deployment of Russian nuclear weapons in Belarus, which stipulates the conditions for keeping them in a special storage facility.

Earlier this year, Putin announced that Russia would deploy tactical nuclear weapons and complete construction of its own storage facility in neighboring Belarus.

Ukraine’s counterattack

During his speech, Putin also referred to Ukraine’s ongoing efforts to take back parts of the country controlled by Russian forces, saying Kiev’s push only reached Russia’s “first line” in some areas and failed to achieve its goals.

He claimed that the cost of the long-awaited counter-attack in Ukraine was too high and that Kiev had suffered heavy casualties.

“In some places, the Ukrainian units managed to reach the first line. In some places, they failed… The important thing is that they are using strategic reserves… And in none of the locations have they achieved their objectives,” he said.

This came after Ukrainian claims that Kiev had made progress against Russian forces in multiple directions, including the direction of Bakhmut, a major flashpoint in the Russo-Ukrainian war.

Putin noted that Moscow has made progress toward its goal of “demilitarizing” Ukraine, as arms production in the country has come to a near standstill as most weapons are imported from abroad.

He added that Russia, meanwhile, has intensified its military production 2.7 times and continues to develop its capabilities.

“While we are talking, there is another attempt. The opponent is trying to attack in several areas. They have reached the first edge and the battle is continuing at this moment,” he said.

Tiger tanks are “burning” on the battlefield

Putin ruled out the possibility of Ukraine’s victory in the new offensive and the war in general.

He said German Leopard tanks, delivered to Ukraine earlier this year, were “burning” on the battlefield, adding that if US-made F-16 fighter jets were delivered to Kiev, they would be shot down.

“NATO is participating in the war in Ukraine … F-16s will also burn, there is no doubt about that. But if they are located at air bases outside Ukraine, we will have to look at how and where to strike. Those weapons that were used against us, and this grave danger.”

Putin said Russia is capable of launching strikes on government buildings in Kiev, but has not done so for reasons he has not stated publicly.

Asked about the possibility of a Russian tactical nuclear strike in the ongoing conflict, Putin said that Russia is not inclined to carry out such an attack, adding that nuclear weapons should only serve as a deterrent.

Dependence on China

He also criticized assertions that recent agreements with China make Moscow beholden to Beijing.

Putin said that other countries, including those making such claims, have already become dependent on China “for a long time.”

“When I hear,” he said, “you will become dependent on China,” I ask, “and you?” … It really became a long time ago,” he said, adding that “nothing” negative came out of such relations with Beijing.

Amid growing efforts to abandon trade in U.S. dollars in favor of national currencies, Putin said Moscow does not want to refuse payments in U.S. currency, but that this is a possible outcome.

“If this trend gains momentum on the stock exchanges, and if other oil and gas exchanges appear where payments are not made in dollars, then this will be the beginning of the end for the dollar,” he said.

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