Putin told Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko at a meeting in St. Petersburg the missile systems “can use both ballistic and cruise missiles, both in conventional and nuclear versions,” according to the Kremlin.
On Saturday, Ukraine claimed Russian forces had fired multiple missiles on the Kyiv, Chernihiv and Sumy regions from Belarus.
In a transcript of the meeting, Lukashenko expressed to Putin his “stress” over what he alleged are flights by United States and NATO planes “training to carry nuclear warheads” close to Belarus’ border.
He asked Putin to consider “a mirrored response” to the flights or to convert Russian fighter jets, which are currently deployed to Belarus, to “carry nuclear warheads.”
Putin replied that “there is no need” to match the US flights and suggested Belarus could modify its own Su-25 aircraft to be nuclear-capable 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 the Iskander-M?
The Iskander-M is a Russian-built short-range ballistic missile system that can carry conventional or nuclear warheads with a maximum range of up to 500 kilometers (310 miles), according to Janes Defense.
The weapon uses both optical and inertial guidance systems to strike its targets, hitting them with a range of warheads, such as cluster munitions, vacuum bombs, bunker-busters, and electromagnetic pulse (EMP) warheads, according to the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance.
The Iskander-M was first used in 2008 during the Russia-Georgia conflict, when the Russian Army used it to hit targets in Gori, according to the Alliance.
CNN has reached out the Pentagon for comment on Lukashenko’s claims.
G7 and NATO summits
The meeting between the Russian and Belarusian strongmen came ahead of a week of summits in Europe, where the grinding war in Ukraine — entering its fifth month — will be front and center.
The leaders of Japan, Canada, the US, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, the European Union and host Germany will meet for the Group of 7 on Monday.
During his nightly address on Saturday, Zelensky said, “sanctions packages against Russia are not enough” and called on the western partners to provide Ukraine with more “armed assistance.”
“The air defense systems — the modern systems that our partners have — should be not in training areas or storage facilities, but in Ukraine, where they are now needed,” he said.
Fall of Severodonetsk
Regional military officials said Friday that the last troops in Severodonetsk had been ordered to leave, as it was impossible to keep defending their positions. This effectively ceded the city to Russia and put the eastern Ukrainian region of Luhansk almost fully under Russian control.
Russia’s Ministry of Defense on Saturday said its forces have 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, defense ministry spokesperson, said Russian forces have “completely liberated the cities of Severodonetsk and Borivske, the settlements of Voronove and Syrotyne of the Luhansk People’s Republic.”
CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, Tim Lister and Olga Voitovych contributed reporting.