September 24, 2023

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced plans on Saturday to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in neighboring Belarus, a warning to the West as it ramps up military support for Ukraine.

Putin said he was responding to Britain’s decision to provide Ukraine with armor-piercing rounds containing depleted uranium. Russia falsely claimed that the shells contained nuclear components.

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He said Russia would retain control of the strategic nuclear weapons stationed in Belarus. Putin said that the construction of storage facilities for them would be completed by July 1.

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has long sought arms, Putin said in an interview broadcast Saturday evening on Russian state television.

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Putin insisted that Russia would not violate its international obligations on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, adding that the United States has long deployed its nuclear weapons on the territory of its NATO allies. Belarus shares borders with three NATO members: Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland.

Russia has used the territory of Belarus as a staging ground for sending troops into Ukraine since the invasion began on February 24, 2002, and Moscow and Minsk have maintained close military ties.

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Putin said Russia last year helped modernize Belarusian military aircraft to make them capable of carrying nuclear weapons. He said that 10 such aircraft are ready to go. He said nuclear weapons can also be fired from short-range Iskander missiles Russia provided to Belarus last year.

Unlike more powerful, longer-range strategic nuclear weapons, tactical nuclear weapons are intended for use on the battlefield.

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