Belarus says Russian Iskander missile systems ready for use

Deployment of weapons comes amid Moscow’s increasing pressure on Minsk to aid its invasion of Ukraine.

Russian service members equip an Iskander tactical missile system.
Russian service members equip an Iskander tactical missile system at the Army-2015 international military-technical forum in Kubinka, outside Moscow, Russia, June 17, 2015 [File: Sergei Karpukhin/ Reuters]

The Iskander tactical missile systems and the S-400 air defence systems that Russia has deployed to Belarus are fully prepared to perform their intended tasks, a senior Belarusian official has said.

“Our servicemen, crews have fully completed their training in the joint combat training centres of the armed forces of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus,” Leonid Kasinsky, head of the Main Directorate of Ideology at the Belarusian defence ministry, said in a video posted online on Sunday.

“These types of weapons [Iskander and S-400 systems] are on combat duty today and they are fully prepared to perform tasks for their intended purpose.”

It is unclear how many of the Iskander systems — capable of carrying nuclear weapons — have been deployed to Belarus after Russian President Vladimir Putin said in June that Moscow would supply Minsk with the Iskander and the air defence systems.

The news comes amid Moscow’s increasing pressure on Minsk to aid its invasion of Ukraine, now in its 10th month and with no end in sight.

Russian forces used Belarus as a launch pad for their abortive attack on the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, in February, and there has been a growing flurry of Russian and Belarusian military activity in recent months.

The Iskander-M, a mobile guided missile system code-named “SS-26 Stone” by NATO, replaced the Soviet “Scud”. Its two guided missiles have a range of up to 500km (300 miles) and can carry conventional or nuclear warheads.

That range reaches deep into Belarusian neighbour territory — Ukraine and NATO-member Poland — leading to strained relations with Minsk.

The S-400 system is a Russian mobile, surface-to-air missile (SAM) interception system capable of engaging aircraft, drones, as well as cruise missiles.

Kasinsky also said the country’s military aircraft have been converted to carry “special aviation ammunition”.

Source: Reuters