Belarus conducts tactical nuclear inspection together with Russia

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(Reuters) - Belarus has begun checks on the readiness of its army to deploy tactical nuclear weapons, state media said on Tuesday, simultaneously with preparations for a nuclear drill being carried out by Russia.

State news agency Belta quoted Defence Minister Viktor Khrenin as saying President Alexander Lukashenko had ordered a surprise inspection of forces in charge of such weapons.

During the inspection, "the entire range of activities from planning, preparation and use of strikes with tactical nuclear weapons will be checked," Khrenin said.

The checks involved an Iskander missile division and a squadron of Su-25 aircraft, he added.

Lukashenko said in April that "several dozen" Russian tactical nuclear weapons had been deployed in Belarus under an agreement announced last year by himself and President Vladimir Putin as a measure to deter the West.

Tactical nuclear weapons are designed for use on the battlefield, as opposed to strategic warheads designed to wipe out entire enemy cities.

Russia said on Monday it would practise the deployment of such weapons as part of a military exercise after what Moscow said were threats from France, Britain and the United States.

A Ukrainian military intelligence spokesperson said Kyiv saw nothing new in the drill, as "nuclear blackmail is a constant practice of Putin's regime".

(Reporting by Reuters; writing by Mark Trevelyan; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)