Belarus operating Russian Iskander missiles autonomously: Minsk

Ukraine fears Belarus could join the war after a flurry of military drills with Russian forces.

Belarus iskander missiles
Russian long-range high-precision Iskander missile launchers take part in a military parade during celebrations marking Independence Day in Minsk July 3, 2014 [File: Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters]

Belarus said on Wednesday that its armed forces were now in autonomous control of Russian-supplied nuclear-capable Iskander mobile-guided missile systems after completing training in Russia, as well as exercises on home soil.

The missiles are capable of hitting targets at a range of up to 500km (310 miles), Minsk’s defence ministry said.

The commander of Belarusian rocket and artillery forces told Minsk’s Military TV that they had until now lacked a strike weapon with a range of more than 300km (186 miles).

Military drills
Russian troops take part in drills at an unspecified location in Belarus [File: Russian Defence Ministry Press Service via AP]

In comments posted on Military TV’s Telegram channel, Ruslan Chekhov praised the Iskander for its “simplicity of use, reliability, manoeuvrability and firepower”.

Russian forces used Belarus as a launch pad for their abortive attack on the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, in February last year, and a recent flurry of joint military activity in Belarus has fanned speculation that Moscow may be leaning on Minsk to join its war in Ukraine – something Minsk has ruled out.

The Iskander-M, codenamed “SS-26 Stone” by NATO, replaced the Soviet “Scud”.

Its range reaches deep into Belarus’s neighbours Ukraine and NATO member Poland, whose relations with Belarus are badly strained.

Source: Reuters