Russian President Vladimir Putin announced plans on Saturday to station tactical nuclear weapons in neighboring Belarus, a warning to the West as it steps up military support for Ukraine.
Putin said he was responding to Britain’s decision this past week to provide Ukraine with armour-piercing rounds containing depleted uranium. Russia falsely claimed these rounds have nuclear components.
He said Russia would maintain control over the tactical nuclear weapons stationed in Belarus. Construction of storage facilities for them would be completed by July 1, Putin said.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has long asked for the weapons, Putin said, speaking in an interview broadcast Saturday evening on Russian state television.
Putin insisted that Russia would not be violating its international obligations on the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, saying 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 to send troops into Ukraine since the invasion began on Feb. 24, 2022, and Moscow and Minsk have maintained close military ties.
Putin noted that Russia helped modernize Belarusian military aircraft last year to make them capable of carrying nuclear warheads. He said 10 such planes were ready to go. He said nuclear weapons also could be launched by the Iskander short-range missiles that Russia provided to Belarus last year.
Tactical nuclear weapons are intended for use on the battlefield, unlike more powerful, longer-range strategic nuclear weapons.