Russia could deploy nuclear nukes in Belarus, leader says


TALLINN, Estonia (AP)  Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko said that Russia’s strategic nuclear weapons could be transferred to Belarus along with some of Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons, urging the West over the Kremlin war in Ukraine. 

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

Strategic nuclear weapons, such as missile-launching warheads that Lukashenko mentioned in his State of the Union address, would pose an even greater threat if Moscow transferred them to the territory of its neighbors and allies.

Belarus was just his area where he staged the Russian military invasion of Ukraine 13 months ago. Lukashenko, who has been in office since his 1994, delivered the annual speech amid mounting tensions over the Ukraine conflict. Both he and Putin argue that the West wants to destroy Russia and Belarus.

Putin said the construction of Belarus’ tactical nuclear weapons storage facility would be completed by July 1, adding that Russia had helped modernize Belarusian fighter planes so that they could carry nuclear weapons.

The stationing of Russian short-range tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus would bring them closer to potential Ukrainian targets and NATO members in Eastern and Central Europe, but the stationing of strategic nuclear missiles on Belarusian territory would be It doesn’t make much sense for the Kremlin. These missiles have intercontinental range and can reach anywhere in the world from Russian positions. After challenging Lukashenko in the 2020 presidential election, Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsyhanuskaya accused Lukashenko of promoting Russia’s nuclear arsenal as a betrayal of national interests.

“The use of nuclear weapons in Belarus seriously endangered the lives of Belarusians and made Belarus a potential target for attacks, including a nuclear attack at the whim of two dictators,” Tihanuskaya said.

Russian political and economic support has allowed Lukashenko to survive months of mass opposition protests, increasing his reliance on the Kremlin.

Lukashenko had previously called for a ceasefire in Ukraine in his speeches. He must declare a ceasefire without preconditions and halt all movement of troops and weapons, he said. Ukrainian presidential aide Mikhail Podlyak quickly dismissed the proposal, saying a ceasefire would allow Russia to remain in the occupied territories.

Belarus and Russia have strengthened military cooperation since the start of the Ukraine war. Belarusian troops did not participate in the fighting, but Moscow retains troops and weapons in Belarus.

Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan renounced remaining Soviet nuclear weapons on their territories after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Under the so-called Budapest Memorandum of Understanding, which accompanies the arms sale, Russia, the US and the UK have agreed to respect the territorial integrity of these countries. Ukraine has repeatedly complained that Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and its invasion in 2022 violated that agreement.

In Friday’s speech on Russia’s possible deployment of strategic nuclear weapons in Belarus, Lukashenko said he ordered the military a week ago to immediately make the former base of the Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles operational.