How forensic experts are trying to identify bodies in Ukraine 2:37 (CNN) — Russia will transfer nuclear-capable Iskander-M missile systems to ally Belarus in the coming months, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday. Putin told Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko at a meeting in St. Petersburg that the missile systems “can use both ballistic and cruise missiles, both in conventional and nuclear versions,” according to the Kremlin. Russia launched its invasion on February 24 in part from Belarusian territory, which borders Ukraine to the north. Throughout the war, Moscow has used Minsk as a satellite base, including for many of Russia’s air operations in Ukraine, according to intelligence collected by NATO surveillance planes. On Saturday, Ukraine claimed that Russian forces had fired multiple missiles at the Kyiv, Chernihiv and Sumy regions from Belarus. Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at the International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg in Russia on June 17. In a transcript of the meeting, Lukashenko expressed to Putin his “stress” over what he says are flights of US and NATO planes “training to carry nuclear warheads” near the border with Belarus. He asked Putin to consider “an equivalent response” to the flights or to convert Russian fighter jets, currently deployed in 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 to be nuclear-capable. “This modernization must be carried out at aircraft factories in Russia, but we will agree with you on how to do it. And, accordingly, start training the flight crew,” Putin said. What is 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 engage its targets, hitting them with a variety of warheads, including cluster munitions, vacuum bombs, bunker busters and electromagnetic pulse (EMP) warheads, the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance said. The Iskander-M was first used in 2008 during the Russia-Georgia conflict, when the Russian military used it to hit targets in Gori, according to the Alliance. CNN has reached out to the Pentagon for comment on Lukashenko’s claims. G7 and NATO Summits The meeting between Russian and Belarusian strongmen comes ahead of a week of summits in Europe, where the bitter war in Ukraine, entering its fifth month, will be front and center. The leaders of Japan, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, the European Union and host Germany will meet for the Group of 7 on Monday. US President Joe Biden hopes to announce new sanctions and military assistance along with European allies during his visits to Germany and Spain. Both the G7 and NATO summits will hear from Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, who continues to appeal to the US and other countries for more help. UK hits highest inflation in 40 years 1:10 During his late-night speech on Saturday, Zelensky said “sanction packages against Russia are not enough” and called on Western partners to provide Ukraine with more “armed assistance.” “Air defense systems, modern systems that our partners have, should not be in training areas or storage facilities, but in Ukraine, where they are needed now,” he said. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s military confirmed on Saturday that it had begun using a US-supplied Advanced Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) to attack Russian targets. Ukraine’s Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi released a video that he said showed the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, launching their missile at an unspecified location at night. CNN reported on Thursday that HIMARS had arrived in Ukraine, citing the country’s Defense Ministry. Fall of Severodonetsk The city of Severodonetsk in eastern Ukraine was “completely under Russian occupation” on Saturday, the head of the city’s military administration, Oleksandr Striuk, said, after months of intense and bloody fighting. Severodonetsk was one of the last major Ukrainian strongholds in the area. Regional military officials said on Friday that the last troops in Severodonetsk had been ordered to withdraw as it was impossible to continue defending their positions. This effectively ceded the city to Russia and brought the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine almost entirely under Russian control. Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Saturday that its forces have now taken control of the entire left bank of the Siverskyi Donets, the east side of the river and all borders of the Luhansk People’s Republic. Lieutenant General Igor Konashenkov, a Defense Ministry spokesman, said Russian forces “completely liberated the cities of Severodonetsk and Borivske, the settlements of Voronove and Syrotyne from the Luhansk People’s Republic.” CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, Tim Lister and Olga Voitovych contributed reporting.
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