Lukashenko claims transfer of Russian nukes to Belarus underway

According to Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko, the transfer of some Russian tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus has already begun, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Belarusian service reported on May 25, citing Belarusian state media.

"It was necessary to prepare storage sites, and so on," Lukashenko said. "We did all this. Therefore, the movement of nuclear weapons began."

When asked by a reporter whether the missiles were already in Belarus, the dictator responded: "Maybe. I will come and see."

Lukashenko also assured the safety of the weapons in Belarus, saying: “Don’t worry about nuclear weapons. We are responsible for this. These are serious issues. Everything will be all right here.”

Earlier the same day, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and his Belarusian counterpart Viktor Khrenin signed documents on placing Russian non-strategic nuclear weapons on Belarusian territory.

Control over the weaponry and decision on its use remains with Moscow, Shoigu reportedly said during the meeting.

Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened on March 25 that Moscow intends to place tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus for training, the latest in Moscow's series of nuclear threats against Ukraine and the West.

According to the Kremlin, Lukashenko asked for the placement himself. At the same time, Belarus's Foreign Ministry said that the regime was "forced" to do so amid so-called "unprecedented political, economic, and informational pressure" from the U.S., U.K., EU members, and NATO allies.

Western countries and NATO denounced the move, calling it “dangerous and irresponsible.”

106 Bakhmut defenders return home from Russian captivity

Presidential Office head Andrii Yermak reported on May 25 that 106 Ukrainian prisoners of war had returned home from Russian captivity as part of a prisoner exchange.

All of the freed POWs had defended Donetsk Oblast’s city of Bakhmut, said Yermak. Among them were 98 privates and sergeants, as well as eight officers.

“They fought for Bakhmut and performed a feat that prevented the enemy from advancing further into our east. Each of them is a hero of our state,” added Yermak.

According to the Coordinating Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War, 68 released soldiers were considered missing.

The freed prisoners included personnel from Ukraine’s Armed Forces, border guards, and a State Transport Special Service employee, the headquarters wrote.

During the prisoner exchange, the bodies of two foreigners and a Ukrainian woman were also repatriated, reads the report.

According to the headquarters, 2340 people have been returned from Russian captivity, including 139 civilians, as of May 25, 2023.

Prigozhin claims Wagner forces leaving Bakhmut

Shortly after claiming full control over Bakhmut, Wagner Group head Yevgeny Prigozhin said on May 25 that his mercenaries started withdrawing from the city.

"By June 1, the main part (of Wagner formation stationed in Bakhmut) will be transferred to the rear camps. We hand over positions to the military: ammunition, positions — everything, including ration packs," Prigozhin said in a video posted by his press service.

The Kyiv Independent could not independently verify Prigozhin's claim or the footage provided by his press service. Ukrainian authorities haven't commented on Prigozhin's statement yet.

Ukraine reportedly shoots down all Russian aerial targets during May 25 Kyiv attack

Ukraine shot down all the Russian aerial targets in an early morning Russian strike on Kyiv on May 25, according to preliminary information reported by Kyiv City Military Administration head Serhii Popko.

Russian forces used drones in their 12th mass attack against Kyiv since the beginning of May, which lasted over three hours, Popko said, adding that "all potential strikes on Kyiv have been prevented."

He did not provide any further information at the time of the publication.

According to Kyiv Oblast Military Administration, air defense was at work in the early hours of May 25. An air raid alert has been activated in most of Ukraine, including Kyiv, Zhytomyr, Chernihiv, Kirovohrad, Mykolaiv, and Kherson oblasts, as well as western regions.

Earlier in the day, Russian forces shelled five communities in Sumy Oblast, firing more than 84 rounds from various types of artillery weapons, according to the Ukrainian military.