September 28. 2023. 5:49

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Belarus a Kremlin ‘hostage’ with deployment of Russian nuclear weapons, says Ukraine

Ukraine has called for an urgent international response to Russia’s decision to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, a country which Kyiv said would effectively become a Kremlin “hostage” once the missiles were deployed.

Russian president Vladimir Putin said the weapons would remain under his military’s control while located in Belarus’s territory, and claimed they were being sent there at the request of the country’s leader Alexander Lukashenko, another veteran autocrat and the Kremlin’s closest European ally.

“There is nothing unusual about this. Firstly, the United States has been doing this for decades. They placed their tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of their allies ... in Europe a long time ago,” Mr Putin said.

“We agreed to do the same, without violating our international obligations on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. We have already helped our Belarusian colleagues to re-equip their aircraft. Ten planes are ready to use this type of [nuclear] weapon.


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Ukraine war: Nato condemns ‘dangerous’ Putin rhetoric on nuclear weapons

Ukraine war: Nato condemns ‘dangerous’ Putin rhetoric on nuclear weapons

Belarus a Kremlin ‘hostage’ with deployment of Russian nuclear weapons, says Ukraine

Belarus a Kremlin ‘hostage’ with deployment of Russian nuclear weapons, says Ukraine

Russia will station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, Putin says

Russia will station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, Putin says

“We have already handed over to Belarus our well-known, very effective Iskander [missile] system, which can also be a carrier [of nuclear warheads]. On April 3rd we will start training the crew and on July 1st we will finish building a special storage facility for tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus.”

[ Russia to hold talks with Belarus amid fears of new attack on Kyiv ]

Mr Putin claimed this was “exactly” what Mr Lukashenko had requested, and said the move was also a response to Britain’s announcement last week that it would supply Ukraine with tank shells containing depleted uranium that are highly effective at piercing armour.

Russia’s leader of 23 years said these munitions were “somehow related to nuclear technology”, but they do not have any nuclear or radiological effect. Mr Putin also acknowledged that his military has “hundreds of thousands of such shells, but we have not used them yet”.

Tactical nuclear weapons have a shorter range and smaller warhead than strategic nuclear weapons, and could be used to seek significant “tactical” gains on the battlefield rather than to devastate entire cities thousands of kilometres away.

“We have not seen any reason to adjust our own strategic nuclear posture nor any indications Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon,” said White House national security council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson.

The US is believed to have about 200 such warheads, some of which are deployed at six airbases in Italy, Germany, Turkey, Belgium and the Netherlands. Russia is thought to have about 10 times more warheads in its arsenal.

“Russia’s reference to Nato’s nuclear sharing is totally misleading. Nato allies act with full respect of their international commitments,” an alliance spokesperson told Reuters on Sunday.

“Russia has consistently broken its arms control commitments, most recently suspending its participation in the New Start Treaty,” the spokesperson added, referring to Mr Putin’s decision last month to halt his country’s participation in its last major nuclear arms control pact with the US.

Ukraine said it “expects effective actions to counter the nuclear blackmail of the Kremlin by Great Britain, China, the US and France in particular, as permanent members of the UN Security Council ... We demand that an extraordinary meeting of the UN Security Council be convened immediately for this purpose.

[ Ukraine frets about new Belarus front in war with Russia ]

“We appeal to the G7 countries and the European Union to warn the Belarusian authorities about the far-reaching consequences for Belarus if it agrees to accept tactical nuclear weapons from Russia,” Ukraine’s foreign ministry added.

Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s national security and defence council, said Mr Putin’s move would destabilise Belarus and intensify opposition to Russia in a country that saw huge protests in 2020 before Mr Lukashenko launched a brutal crackdown on critics. “The Kremlin took Belarus as a nuclear hostage,” he added.

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