Russia Confirms Training Belarusian Fighter Pilots To Counter NATO; Reports Say Jets Would Be Nuclear-Capable

Russia has been training the crew of Belarusian combat aircraft, which have been converted to use special ammunition for a symmetrical response to NATO’s activities, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Galuzin told Sputnik.

“During Russian President Vladimir Putin’s working visit to Minsk on December 19, a decision was made to provide training for the crews of combat aircraft converted for the possible use of ammunition with a special warhead,” Galuzin said.

The official added that the US, with its NATO allies, have been undertaking similar activities for decades. “This particular case is also about a symmetrical response of Russia and Belarus to unfriendly steps of the alliance member states,” Galuzin emphasized.

Earlier, as EurAsian Times reported, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko decided on a wide variety of military and economic issues during Putin’s first trip to Belarus in more than three years.

The official Belarusian BelTA news agency reported that the agreement between the two countries also includes training Belarusian pilots to fly combat jets with “special warheads.”

The Russian President said that the US has been carrying out similar measures with their NATO allies for decades. 

Early this year, Russia and Belarus announced a proposal to modify Belarusian Su-24 and make them nuclear-capable. According to Lukashenko, Russian instructors have been training Belarusian pilots to fly the modified aircraft that may carry special warheads — a reference to nuclear weapons.

Lukashenko thanked Putin for supplying his troops with Iskander short-range missiles and S-400 air defense systems. He also stated the two countries agreed to continue to perform joint military drills. 

File Image: Su-25 Aircraft

“Today, we’ve commissioned an S-400 [air defense missile] complex that you have handed over to Belarus. And most importantly, the Iskander complex, which you’ve also handed over to us after promising it half a year ago,” Lukashenko said, according to BelTa.

On December 19, the two leaders also addressed the development of a common defensive space and security and cooperation within the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) framework.

Putin stated that coordinated military plans are being developed within the Union State of Belarus and Russia and that the regional military task force is active, reported BelTA. 

Belarusian and Russian Army forces are currently conducting combat shakedown training on Belarusian territory. A cooperative air defense system has been developed and is operational.

The Russian President also noted that the parties reached an understanding that they would continue working together to take all necessary steps to ensure proper security, give priority to training the troops and enhancing their combat readiness, and continue the practice of routine joint military drills and mutual shipments of weapons.

Lukashenko, meanwhile, needs support with his country’s struggling economy. Putin’s visit to Minsk was unusual because he typically receives Lukashenko in Russia. 

According to analysts, the Russian government may seek military assistance from Belarus for its activities in Ukraine. 

The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, claims that any major Russian strike is unlikely to occur anytime soon because of the winter conditions and Russia’s depleted resource reserves.

Sukhoi Su-25 Wikipedia
Sukhoi Su-25 Wikipedia

Putin’s Mission To Minsk Raises Concerns

The commander of the Ukrainian military, Gen. Valeriy Zaluzhny, issued an alert last week about a potential fresh Russian invasion from Belarus.

However, US officials have pushed back on that idea for various reasons, including the fact that nearly ten months of an all-out assault on Ukraine has undoubtedly depleted the necessary troops, equipment, and ammunition of Russia. 

Russia has attacked Ukrainian cities from Belarus with piloted aircraft and drone operations throughout the conflict. However, Dmitry Peskov, a spokesperson for the Kremlin, batted down worries that Putin and Lukashenko were preparing a new military onslaught from Belarus on Monday.

In response to Zaluzhny’s claims that Moscow and Minsk were planning a coordinated operation, Peskov told him to “rest,” according to the Telegram channel of the official Russian state-run media outlet. 

Hours before Putin’s visit to see his close ally Lukashenko, Russia conducted a fresh round of drone strikes against Ukraine, hitting the electricity infrastructure of the capital. 

Iranian Suicide Drones Used By Russian Military

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense (MOD) reported that Russia deployed 35 Shahed-136 and Shahed-131 drones from the eastern side of the Sea of Azov and that 30 of those drones were shot down by air defense systems, fighter aircraft, and mobile fire units.

Even though Ukraine frequently asserts that it has taken down drones, some of them could still disrupt the electricity supplies. Kyiv mayor, Vitali Klitschko, announced on his Telegram channel on December 19 that after Moscow’s morning attacks on the capital and damage to infrastructure facilities, utility personnel had already restored the functionality of most boiler houses. 

“About 3% of consumers remain without heating. The capital’s water supply system is working normally,” Klitschko added. Ukrainian officials recently said that the Russian Federation has resumed attacks on Ukraine with Iranian Shahed kamikaze drones, owing to a new batch, but deploys them more selectively.