Putin told Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko at a meeting in St. Petersburg. Petersburg that the missile systems “can use both ballistic missiles and cruise missiles, both in conventional and nuclear versions,” according to the Kremlin.
On Saturday, Ukraine claimed that Russian forces had fired several missiles at the Kyiv, Chernihiv and Sumy regions of Belarus.
In a transcript of the meeting, Lukashenko expressed to Putin his “stress” over what he claimed are flights from the United States and NATO planes “training to carry nuclear warheads” near Belarus’ border.
He asked Putin to consider “a mirror image” of the flights or to convert Russian fighter jets currently dispatched to Belarus to “carry nuclear warheads”.
Putin responded that “there is no need” to match US flights and suggested that Belarus could modify its own Su-25 aircraft so that it is nuclear-powered instead.
“This modernization should be carried out at aircraft factories in Russia, but we will agree with you on how to do this. And accordingly, start training the flight crew,” Putin said.
What is Iskander-M?
Iskander-M is a short-range Russian-built ballistic missile system capable of carrying conventional or nuclear warheads with a maximum range of up to 500 kilometers (310 miles), according to Jane’s Defense.
The weapon uses both optical and inertia control systems to hit its targets and hits them with a variety of warheads, such as cluster munitions, vacuum bombs, bunker warheads and electromagnetic pulse (EMP) warheads, according to the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance.
Iskander-M was first used in 2008 during the conflict between Russia and Georgia, when the Russian army used it to hit targets in Gori, according to the Alliance.
CNN has contacted the Pentagon for a comment on Lukashenko’s allegations.
G7 and NATO summits
The meeting between the Russian and Belarusian strong men preceded a week of summits in Europe, where the abrasive war in Ukraine – which is entering its fifth month – will be at the center.
The leaders of Japan, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, the EU and host Germany will meet in Group 7 on Monday.
During his evening speech on Saturday, Zelensky said, “sanctions packages against Russia are not enough” and called on Western partners to give Ukraine more “armed assistance”.
“The air defense systems – the modern systems that our partners have – should not be in training areas or storage facilities, but in Ukraine, where they are now needed,” he said.
Regional military officials said Friday that the last troops in Severodonetsk had been ordered to leave as it was impossible to continue defending their positions. This effectively ceded the city to Russia and put the eastern Ukrainian region of Luhansk almost completely under Russian control.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Saturday that its forces had now taken control of the entire left bank of the Siverskyi Donets, the eastern side of the river and all the borders of the Luhansk People’s Republic.
Lieutenant General Igor Konashenkov, spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, said that Russian forces have “completely liberated the cities of Severodonetsk and Borivske, the settlements of Voronove and Syrotyne in the People’s Republic of Luhansk.”
CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, Tim Lister and Olga Voitovych contributed reporting.