Russia could deploy powerful strategic nuclear weapons in Belarus, in addition to the tactical nuclear warheads Moscow already plans to deploy there, President Alexander Lukashenko said during a national address Friday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced last week that Moscow would complete the construction of a tactical nuclear weapons storage facility in Belarus in early July. After days of silence, Lukashenko welcomed the move on Friday, announcing that he intensified talks with Putin on the deployment of tactical and strategic nuclear weapons in the country.
The mention of strategic nuclear weapons represents an escalation in Lukashenko’s rhetoric. While tactical warheads are designed for use on a limited battlefield, for example, to destroy a command post or a column of tanks, strategic nuclear warheads are designed to destroy entire cities. So far, Russia has not announced any plans to send strategic nuclear weapons to Belarus.
Lukashenko, who has been asking Putin for nuclear weapons for some time, said his country needed the weapons because Ukraine’s Western allies are planning a coup against it. He baselessly accused Western countries of “preparing to invade” Belarus from Poland and “destroy” it.
“If necessary, Putin and I will decide and introduce strategic nuclear weapons here. And they must understand this… We will stop at nothing, protecting our countries, our states, and their peoples”, said the Belarusian leader, quoted by the BELGIAN state media.
The two leaders are scheduled to meet next week.
Belarus’s opposition leader, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, told CNN on Monday that Russia’s decision to place tactical nuclear weapons on its neighbor “is aimed at subjugating Belarus.”
“We are not a nuclear country and we do not want nuclear weapons deployed on our territory,” he said, adding that the decision violates the national constitution.
Belarus is one of Russia’s few allies in its war against Ukraine. While the country’s military is not directly involved in the fighting, Belarus helped Russia launch its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, allowing Kremlin troops to enter the country from its territory.
Putin said last week that Moscow has already transferred an Iskander short-range missile system to Belarus. The device can be equipped with nuclear or conventional warheads. However, the Russian leader said he would not transfer control of tactical nukes to Lukashenko, likening the move to Washington’s practice of placing nukes in Europe to prevent host countries such as Germany from breaking their commitments as non-US powers. nuclear.
“Our converted aircraft can also carry a nuclear warhead. You heard the President of Russia talk about joint plans to create the appropriate infrastructure on the territory of Belarus. I just want to clarify: all the infrastructure has been created and is ready,” Lukashenko said.
Lukashenko said that Minsk and Moscow would make “all efforts and use all means to guarantee their sovereignty and independence.” He specifically accused Poland and its “jealous” Western neighbors of building the “formation of certain regiments, banners, legions” for a “later coup in Belarus.”
Speaking to the nation on state television, Lukashenko also called for a freeze on “hostilities” in Ukraine.
“It is necessary to stop the hostilities and declare a truce that prohibits both sides from moving groups of troops and transferring weapons, ammunition, manpower, and equipment. Everything stopped, frozen,” Lukashenko said.
However, both Russia and Ukraine immediately rejected the proposal.
Ukraine’s top presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said there can be no ceasefire as long as Russian forces continue to occupy Ukrainian territory.
“Any ceasefire will mean the right [of the Russian Federation] to remain in the occupied territories. This is totally inadmissible,” Podolyak said.
The Kremlin also scrapped the proposal on Friday. “In the context of Ukraine, nothing changes. The special military operation continues because at the moment it is the only way to achieve the goals facing our country,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on a regular call with reporters.
But while calling for a truce, Lukashenko added a warning to the West that Moscow would be forced to use “the full power of its military-industrial complex and the army to prevent the escalation of the conflict — phosphorous, non-depleted uranium and enriched uranium ammunition.” — everything must go into action if there is deceit and even if the slightest movement across the Ukrainian border is noticed.”