Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that Russia had sent the first nuclear weapons to Belarus as part of a plan to deploy tactical nuclear bombs in the country bordering Ukraine.
Speaking at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Putin said the rest of the nuclear weapons would be delivered by the end of the summer.
“It’s a deterrent. [against] everyone who thinks of Russia and its strategic defeat,” he said in response to a question about the use of nuclear weapons in wartime.
The Russian leader’s comments follow claims by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko this week that his country received the first part of “Russia’s bombs and missiles”.
“God forbid, I have to make the decision to use these weapons today, but there would be no hesitation if we faced aggression,” Lukashenko said in a statement.
The move was first announced by the two allied leaders in March, part of Putin’s strategy to keep the threat of nuclear weapons on the minds of Western leaders who strongly support Ukraine in its fight. against Russia.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, Belarus was one of four former members of the Soviet Union, including Ukraine, that transferred nuclear weapons to Russia.
The return of nuclear weapons to Belarus marks the first transfer of nuclear weapons for Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The weapons Moscow is transferring are short-range tactical nuclear weapons, which have a shorter range and lower yield than nuclear warheads mounted on ballistic missiles – but are still capable of immense damage far exceeding bombs dropped on Hiroshima, Japan during World War II. .
The United States also deploys tactical nuclear weapons overseas, including about 100 gravity nuclear bombs stationed in Europe.
On Friday, Putin, who has repeatedly threatened to use nuclear weapons during the Ukraine war, lambasted the United States as the only country to have dropped nuclear weapons on another country and deflected questions about its own nuclear weapons strategy.
Asked about the transfer decision, Putin said on Friday he didn’t want to “scare the whole world” and maintained that nuclear weapons would only be used in self-defense.
“These measures can only be used if there is a threat to the Russian state,” he said. “Every means in our hands will be used against him.”
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