May 26, 2023 at 8:02 PM Update: 5 minutes ago
NU.nl regularly gives you an overview of the situation in Ukraine. With this time: Russia has started the transfer of nuclear weapons to Belarus. It is the first time that the country has stole its weapons abroad since the collapse of the Soviet Union. According to sources, the Netherlands also wants to supply some F-16s to Ukraine.
According to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Russian nuclear weapons are already on their way to his country. That would have happened at the behest of Russian President Vladimir Putin, he told reporters on Thursday. At the end of March, Putin already announced that his country wants to store weapons in Belarus. The storage there would be ready on July 1.
Lukashenko did not say on Thursday whether weapons had arrived in his country when reporters asked him about them in Moscow. “Possibly. When I come back (in Belarus, ed.), I will check that.”
At the presentation of the deal with Belarus, Putin said that the country will not have control over nuclear weapons. Belarus announced that it will house the nuclear weapons, because the country wants to protect itself against the West.
Putin does not see it as a problem that the weapons are being relocated for the first time since the break-up of the Soviet Union, despite international concerns. This is because Russia is not the only country to do so. For example, American nuclear weapons are stored in the Netherlands and Belgium.
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United States condemns relocation
Russia and Belarus stated that their cooperation does not violate the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty, which limits the possession of nuclear weapons to the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and China. There are also other countries with nuclear weapons, such as North Korea and India, but they have not signed the treaty.
The United States condemned the deployment of nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, according to a spokesman, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs sees no indication that Russia is working on the possible use of nuclear bombs. Putin has threatened to do so. Belarus borders Russia, Ukraine and the NATO countries Poland, Latvia and Lithuania.
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Another Ukrainian hospital shot at, two killed and thirty wounded
Russia hit a hospital in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro on Friday in a rocket attack. At least one person was killed, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said. Governor Serhiy Lysak later reported another death. Thirty others were injured.
Ukrainian cities have been bombarded daily by the Russians for several weeks. Dnipro is located in eastern Ukraine, not far from the front line.
It is not the first time that medical buildings in Ukraine have been hit by Russian missiles. Earlier, a maternity hospital in Mariupol and a hospital in Zaporizhzhia were attacked, among others.
Bombing hospitals and other medical facilities is a war crime according to the United Nations.
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Probably some Dutch F-16s to Ukraine
The Netherlands will probably supply some F-16s from its own stock to Ukraine. Anonymous sources told the Bloomberg news agency on Friday.
Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren said on Friday the delivery is likely. But she did not share details about the number of aircraft and the time of delivery. She did emphasize, however, that a decision still has to be taken by the countries that act together. The Netherlands is working closely with Denmark, Belgium and the United Kingdom in this area. Norway, Poland and Portugal have now also joined the alliance.
The Netherlands currently has 48 combat aircraft of this type, of which 24 are in use. The other half is unused in a hangar. Delivery of the aircraft would take place once Ukrainian pilots have been trained to fly them.
The soldiers will receive this training this summer, it turned out on Thursday. The Netherlands will conduct the training together with Denmark and the two countries will be supported by the United States. Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren announced the intention after a consultation with the Ukraine Defense Contact Group.
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Ukraine says it needs 48 F-16s for ‘liberation’
Although it is not yet known how many F-16s the Netherlands will deliver and how many will be given to Ukraine by other countries, the country says it needs 48.
“Four squadrons of F-16s (48 aircraft) are exactly what we need to free our country from the aggressor,” Ukraine’s Defense Ministry wrote on Twitter on Friday. Within the Air Force, a squadron is a designation for a unit with aircraft and all personnel associated with it, including the commander.
Mark Milley, the top general in the US armed forces, said Thursday that the F-16s will not be a “magic weapon” in Ukraine’s fight against Russia anyway.
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Wagner withdraws from hard-fought Bakhmut
The first mercenaries of the Wagner Group have withdrawn from Bakhmut. The mercenary army is handing over responsibility for the battle for the city to the Russian army, Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin said Thursday. Ukraine has confirmed the regrouping.
According to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, the first Wagner mercenaries have left the outskirts of the destroyed city. Wagner would still be present in the center of the city on Thursday.
That seemed to agree with Prigozhin’s statements. According to him, small groups of Wagner soldiers will hold a few positions until June, after which the withdrawal will be completed.
Putin and Wagner said last week that Bakhmut has been captured by the Russians. According to Kyiv, the battle for the eastern Ukrainian city is not yet over. Zelensky said the city has not fallen and fighting continues. “It’s a tragedy.”
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