Putin says Western sanctions have failed to isolate Russia - as he confirms nuclear warheads are already in Belarus

16 June 2023, 20:13 | Updated: 17 June 2023, 00:19

President Putin Of Russia
President Putin Of Russia. Picture: Getty
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

Vladimir Putin has said Western sanctions have failed to isolate Russia, as he confirmed the first set of tactical nuclear weapons are already in Belarus.

Mr Putin said the tactical weapons would only be used if Russia was threatened.

It comes weeks after Russia warned that the weapons would be moved into Belarus, which borders Ukraine.

The Biden administration has played down the significance of nuclear weapons being stationed in Belarus, saying there is no indication Moscow will use them.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: "We don't see any indications that Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon."

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President Putin Of Russia
President Putin Of Russia. Picture: Getty

Belarus is one of Russia's most central allies, having supported its invasion of Ukraine last year.

The majority of the weapons will be transferred to Belarus by the end of the summer, Putin added.

Speaking at an economic conference, Putin said: "Why should we threaten the whole world? I have already said that the use of extreme measures is possible in case there is a danger to Russian statehood."

Read More: Putin says Ukrainian counter-offensive has begun as drones strike within Russia

Read More: Russia deploys nuclear weapons to Belarus in Putin's dramatic escalation of Ukraine war

Putin also talked up Russia's prospects at the country's main international economic forum - despite heavy international sanctions imposed because of the war in Ukraine.

Western officials and investors steered clear of this year's St Petersburg International Economic Forum that for decades has been Russia's premier event for attracting foreign capital and is sometimes likened to the Davos World Economic Forum.

The Kremlin also banned journalists from countries that Russia regards as "unfriendly" from covering the proceedings that began on Wednesday and continue until Saturday.

Moscow has imposed that designation on scores of countries including the United States, Canada, European Union members and Australia in connection with sanctions imposed over the fighting in Ukraine.

Nonetheless, Mr Putin said at the forum's plenary session: "We haven't turned on to the self-isolation path.

"Quite the opposite - we have widened contacts with reliable and responsible partners in the countries and regions that serve as the engine, the drivers of the world's economy today.

"I'd like to reiterate: these are the markets of the future, everyone clearly understands it."

Officials did not provide a list of foreign businesses attending but the programme for the more than 100 panel discussions showed a marked majority of speakers hailing from Russia.

While one of the sessions listed in the programme touted Russia as a "global tech hub," descriptions of others tacitly admitted Moscow's growing economic isolation since its troops moved into Ukraine last February.

Mr Putin also vehemently defended Russia's sending troops into Ukraine and repeated his claims that the Ukrainian government is a neo-Nazi regime, despite President Volodymyr Zelensky's Jewish roots.

"My Jewish friends say that Zelensky is not a Jew, but a shame to the Jewish people," Mr Putin said.

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