Putin says Russian tactical nukes will be deployed in Belarus next month

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that Moscow will deploy some of its tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus next month, a move the Belarusian opposition has described as an attempt to blackmail the West.

Putin said during a meeting with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko that work on the construction of facilities for nuclear weapons will be completed by July 7-8 and they will be quickly transferred to the territory of the neighbor and ally of Russia.

The move comes as Ukraine has stepped up attacks in several frontline sectors in what some observers see as the start of its long-awaited counter-offensive.

Russia used Belarusian territory to send its troops to Ukraine on February 24, 2022 and kept forces and weapons on its ally’s territory.

“Everything is going according to plan,” Putin said in televised remarks as he welcomed Lukashenko to his residence in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi. “On July 7 and 8, the preparations of the relevant facilities will be completed, and we will immediately begin activities related to the deployment of these weapons in your territory.”

Tactical nuclear weapons are intended to destroy enemy troops and weapons on the battlefield. They have a relatively short range and a much lower yield than the nuclear warheads fitted to long-range strategic missiles capable of wiping out entire cities.

Putin announced the planned deployment of short-range nuclear weapons in Belarus earlier this year in a move widely seen as a warning to the West as he steps up military support for Ukraine. He stressed that Russia would retain control.

Russia did not specify how many nuclear weapons would be sent to Belarus. The US government estimates that Russia has about 2,000 tactical nuclear weapons, including bombs that can be carried by planes, warheads for short-range missiles and artillery shells.

Belarusian opposition leader in exile Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya strongly condemned the decision.

“Putin and his puppet Lukashenko plan to deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus just before the NATO summit in Vilnius in July,” Tsikhanouskaya told The Associated Press. “This is crude blackmail, an attempt to force Europe to back down, but we cannot allow dictators to dodge punishment for nuclear blackmail.

Lukashenko, who has been in power for 29 years, has relied on political and economic support from Russia to survive months of protests, mass arrests and Western sanctions following a 2020 election that l ‘kept in power, but was widely seen at home and abroad as rigged. .


Yuras Karmanau in Tallinn, Estonia contributed to this report.

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