Putin, Lukashenko discuss nuclear weapons drills

Russian President Vladimir Putin is pledging tighter cooperation with a key ally. He spent Thursday and Friday in Minsk, Belarus, with President Alexander Lukashenko to discuss economic ties and joint nuclear arms drills.

Earlier this week, Russian forces began what they call "practical training" with their arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons. Putin said the exercise will involve three stages, and Belarus -- which has Russian nuclear weapons deployed in its territory -- will join the second.

Putin described the drills as "planned and routine" and said Russia and Belarus are not "escalating anything." He added that the two countries need to coordinate because they cannot allow any "failures" or "mistakes," and he pointed out that NATO members conduct similar exercises.

Lukashenko said Belarus and Russia have "no desire to attack anyone" but must be able to use the weapons to "defend" themselves.

He also said the two countries will protect each other from the Western nations that have targeted them with sanctions. He added that they must "promptly complete" a unified industrial policy.

The leaders also discussed the war in Ukraine. Putin said peace talks need to be resumed but questioned the "legitimacy" of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as head of state.

Zelenskyy postponed elections earlier this year because of the war. Putin said the leader's five-year term has expired, and in order to negotiate, he must be "convinced" he is dealing with "legitimate authorities."