Russia could deploy strategic nuclear weapons in Belarus, leader says

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) – Russian strategic nuclear weapons could be stationed in Belarus along with part of Russia’s tactical nuclear arsenal, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Friday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced last week that his country intends to deploy relatively short-range, low-yield tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.

The strategic nuclear weapons, such as missile-launched warheads, mentioned by Lukashenko in his State of the Union address would pose an even greater threat if Moscow transferred them to its neighbor and ally’s territory.

A little over 13 months ago, Belarus was a staging area for Russian troops preparing to invade Ukraine. Lukashenko, the only president since the country’s independence from the Soviet Union, delivered his annual address amid escalating tensions surrounding the conflict in Ukraine.

Both he and Putin have claimed that the Western powers want to ruin Russia and Belarus.

“Putin and I will decide and, if necessary, introduce strategic weapons here, and they must understand this, the scoundrels abroad who are trying to blow us up from inside and outside today,” said the Belarusian leader. “We will stop at nothing to protect our countries, our state and their people.”

Lukashenko had previously called for a ceasefire in Ukraine in his speech.

A ceasefire must be declared without preconditions and all movements of troops and weapons halted, he said.

Belarus and Russia have intensified their cooperation since the start of the Ukraine war. The Russian military has used its troops and missiles stationed in Belarus, although no Belarusian troops have taken part in the fighting.

Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan all gave up their nuclear weapons after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Under the so-called Budapest Memorandum that accompanied the arms divestment, Russia, the United States and Britain agreed to respect the territorial integrity of those countries.

Ukraine has repeatedly complained that Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and invasion in 2022 violated that agreement.

Lukashenko said on Friday he did not want to lose his country’s nuclear weapons but had been pushed to do so by then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

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