Russia’s main International Economic Forum in St Petersburg used to be designed to attract foreign capital to Russia but western sanctions have led many international investors to leave.

And Western journalists used to attend the annual forum but now they’re almost all banned.

On Friday President Putin used the gathering to announce the first batch of nuclear weapons has been deployed to neighbouring Belarus.

“The first nuclear charges were delivered to the territory of Belarus,” he said. 

“But only the first – this is the first part. We will complete this work in its entirety before the end of the summer, before the end of the year.”

Russia has 5,889 nuclear weapons, according to the Stockholm Institute Peace Research Institute or SIPRI.

Putin rejected the idea of rejoining negotiations on reducing both of their nuclear arsenals.

“Nuclear weapons are created to ensure our security in the broadest sense of the word and the existence of the Russian state. But we, firstly, do not have such a need,” he said.

But he added: “Extreme means may be used if there is a threat to Russia’s statehood. In this case, we will certainly use all the forces and means that the Russian state has at its disposal.”

Putin also rejected the possibility of reducing Russia’s nuclear arsenal, chuckling mildly as he used a vulgarity.

“We have more such weapons than the NATO countries,” he said.

“They know about it, and all the time we are being persuaded to start negotiations on reductions. The hell with them, you know, as our people say.”

Analysts fear that could trigger a new nuclear arms race and increase the risk of a nuclear conflict. 

He also defended his decision to invade Ukraine, by again denouncing its government as a neo-Nazi regime, despite Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky being Jewish.

“My Jewish friends say that Zelenskyy is not a Jew, but a shame to the Jewish people,” Putin said, although some Jewish organisations have praised Zelenskyy.

Source: Euronews

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