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Russia and Belarus are being pushed to “accelerate the unification processes” in response to political pressure and sanctions from the “collective West,” Russian president Vladimir Putin said Friday.
The Russian president vowed to strengthen the technological, industrial, agricultural and cultural ties between the two allied neighboring countries, who have collaborated in launching attacks on Ukraine. Both Russia and Belarus have faced sanctions from the west, as Belarus has facilitated and supported the invasion.
“After all, together it is easier to minimize the damage from the illegal sanctions imposed, easier to launch the manufacturing of popular products, develop new competencies and expand cooperation with friendly countries,” Putin said at the Forum of Russian and Belarusian Regions.
The comments come days after NATO formally invited Finland and Sweden to join the military alliance on Wednesday. Putin responded to the historic expansion, threatening to respond in kind if military infrastructure or NATO troops are placed in the two Nordic countries.
On Saturday, Russian bombers fired cruise missiles from Belarus for the first time, hitting Chernihiv, Sumy and Kyiv oblasts, Ukrainian intelligence claimed.
Later that day, Putin pledged to give Belarus a missile system capable of launching nuclear missiles.
“Within the next several months, we will transfer to Belarus the Iskander-M tactical missile systems, which are known to use both ballistic and cruise missiles, both conventional and nuclear,” Putin told Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko in a meeting at St. Petersburg.
Belarusians voted in February, days after Russia invaded Ukraine, to allow the country to host nuclear weapons and Russian troops permanently.