Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed that Moscow’s deployment of tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus has already happened, reminding the West that it could not inflict a strategic defeat on Russia.
“The first nuclear warheads were delivered to the territory of Belarus. But only the first ones, the first part. But we will do this job completely by the end of the summer or by the end of the year,” he said.
Speaking Friday at Russia’s economic forum in St. Petersburg, Putin stressed he saw no need for Russia to resort to nuclear weapons, for now. His move delivering shorter-range nuclear weapons to Belarus, which could be used on the battlefield, was intended as a warning to the West about arming and supporting Ukraine, the Russian leader said.
The White House denounced Putin’s comments and said the United States had made no adjustments to its nuclear position in response to the rhetoric.
Putin warned Friday that there was a “serious danger” that the NATO military alliance could be pulled further into the military action against Ukraine. He made those comments during a plenary session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, where he touted Russia’s economy despite heavy international sanctions imposed because of the war in Ukraine. Western journalists were banned from the event.
Putin also alleged that Ukraine was running out of its own military equipment, making it totally dependent on military hardware supplied by the West. “Everything on which they fight and everything that they use is brought in from the outside. Well, you can’t fight like that for long,” he said.
Additionally, he asserted that Ukraine had failed to make progress in its counteroffensive, adding its army had “no chance” against Russia’s.
Independent military analysts say Ukraine has outperformed Russia’s much larger army in the nearly 16 months of the war, forcing it to retreat around the cities of Kyiv, Kharkiv and Kherson.
US humanitarian assistance
The U.S. announced Friday additional humanitarian assistance of $205 million for Ukraine that will provide critical support such as food, safe water, accessible shelter and more.
“The U.S. response is advancing Ukraine’s overall security, economic recovery, energy security and capacity to cope with the humanitarian crisis created by Russia’s war. We welcome the contributions of other donors toward this crisis response and urge yet more donors to generously support the serious humanitarian needs in Ukraine and the region,” said U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
The U.S. aid package brings the total humanitarian assistance for Ukraine to more than $605 million during fiscal 2023. Since February 2022, the United States has provided more than $2.1 billion in humanitarian assistance for the people of Ukraine.
The European Commission will propose additional funding to support Ukraine in the coming years. This year, the EU is providing $19.8 billion but aims at a longer-term solution to provide Kyiv with financing certainty as it repels Russia’s invasion.
“The EU is ready to provide Ukraine with sustainable and predictable financial support beyond 2023 to maintain both macro financial stability and support reconstruction,” European Commission Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said Friday.
Air defense sirens blared Friday in Kyiv as a delegation of African heads of state met with government leaders in hopes of brokering a peace deal between Ukraine and Russia.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko posted on social media that there was an explosion in the central Podil district. “Missiles are still flying towards Kyiv,” he said on Telegram.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is part of the African delegation set to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the first step in its mission to broker a peace deal.
The other members of the delegation are Senegalese President Macky Sall, Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema and Comoros President Azali Assoumani, who currently leads the African Union.
African presidents from Congo, Egypt and Uganda also were set to participate in the peace mission but instead sent their representatives.
The group was expected to meet with Zelenskyy on Friday and then travel to Russia to meet with Putin.
Reuters reported that it had seen a draft of the peace proposals and negotiation points the African peace mission crafted, which include a Russian troop pullback and suspension of the implementation of an International Criminal Court arrest warrant against Putin.