Listen Live

Belarus to get Russian tactical nuclear weapons ‘in days’ – Lukashenko

SHARE NOW

By Andrew Osborn

LONDON (Reuters) – Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Tuesday that Russian tactical nuclear weapons would be physically deployed on the territory of Belarus “in several days” and that he had the facilities to host longer-range missiles too if ever needed.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that Russia, which will retain control of the tactical nuclear weapons, would start deploying them in close ally Belarus after special storage facilities to house them were made ready on July 7-8.

The deployment will be Moscow’s first move of such warheads – shorter-range less powerful nuclear weapons that could potentially be used on the battlefield – outside Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union.

The step is being watched closely by the United States and its allies as well as by China, which has repeatedly cautioned against the use of nuclear weapons in the Ukraine war.

Lukashenko, a staunch Putin ally, was cited by Belta as saying that Belarus was now ready to host the warheads.

“Everything is ready. I think we will have what we asked for in a few days, and even a little bit more,” he was quoted as saying.

Putin announced in March he had agreed to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, pointing to the U.S deployment of such weapons in a host of European countries over many decades.

The United States has criticised Putin’s decision but has said it has no intention of altering its own stance on strategic nuclear weapons and has not seen any signs that Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon.

‘NUCLEAR DETERRENT’

Lukashenko, who has allowed his country to be used by Russian forces attacking Ukraine as part of what Moscow calls its “special military operation”, said the nuclear deployment would act as a deterrent against potential aggressors.

“It (the deployment) was my demand. It wasn’t Russia who imposed it on me. Why? Because no one in the world has ever gone to war with a nuclear power. And I don’t want anyone to go to war with us. Is there such a threat? There is. I must neutralise that threat.”

Lukashenko was cited as saying that Belarus was working to ensure its facilities to house longer-range strategic Russian nuclear weapons such as the Topol intercontinental ballistic missile were ready for use, but had no need of such weapons for now which Moscow has not spoken of supplying to Minsk anyway.

“What do I need strategic (missiles) like the Topols for? Although we are now preparing sites for these weapons as well. They (the Soviet-era sites) are all alive and well, except for one. So if we need to, we can at any moment (house them),” Belta cited Lukashenko as saying.

“But the Topol is an intercontinental missile. Am I planning to go to war with America? No. That’s why this (tactical nuclear weapons) are enough for me for now.”

Belarus’s three western neighbours are all part of the U.S.-led NATO military alliance, which is helping Ukraine to defend itself against Russia with weapons and intelligence but says it will not put NATO boots on the ground.

Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskiy is pushing hard for his country to join NATO, something Russia opposes.

(Reporting by Andrew Osborn; Additional reporting by Felix Light; Editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Nick Macfie)

Brought to you by www.srnnews.com