Ukraine news: Russia to station nukes in Belarus
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Saturday plans to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in neighboring Belarus. This is a cautionary tale when Western countries step up their military support for Ukraine.
Putin said the move was prompted by Britain’s decision last week to provide Ukraine with armor-piercing ammunition containing depleted uranium.
Tactical nuclear weapons are intended for battlefield use and have a short range and low power compared to much more powerful nuclear warheads mounted on long-range missiles. Putin said the construction of the storage facilities will be completed by July 1.
He did not mention the number of nuclear weapons Russia has in Belarus. The US government believes Russia has about 2,000 tactical nuclear weapons. This includes bombs, short-range missile warheads, and artillery shells that can be carried by tactical aircraft.
Putin said Russia was following the lead of the United States by deploying tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, noting that the United States has nuclear weapons in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey.
“We’re doing what they’ve been doing for decades, stationing them in certain allies, preparing launch pads and crews,” Putin said in an interview aired on state television on Saturday night. “We are going to do the same thing.”
Russia keeps its tactical nuclear weapons in dedicated depots on its territory, and moving part of its arsenal to Belarusian depots would be a way to keep it close to Russian aircraft and missiles already stationed there. The placement would give an advantage in the Ukrainian conflict.
Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine had Soviet nuclear weapons on their territories, which were handed over to Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Some Russian hawkish commentators have long urged the Kremlin to place tactical nukes near them to signal to the West that they are ready to use them. rice field.
Putin said Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko had long called for nuclear weapons to counter NATO. Belarus borders her three NATO members (Latvia, Lithuania and Poland) and Russia will use that territory as a transit point to send troops to neighboring Ukraine on February 24, 2022. used.
Putin said Russia helped Belarus modernize its military planes last year so that they could carry nuclear warheads. He said ten such planes were ready to take off. A nuclear weapon could also be launched by the Iskandar short-range missile Russia provided to Belarus last year, he said.
Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsyhanuskaya, who is in exile, said the agreement to transfer tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus “highlights the threat to regional security” by the Lukashenko government.
“Europe will not be safe until the Belarusian dictator is deposed and brought to court for crimes against our country and Ukraine,” Tikhanoskaya wrote on Twitter in English.
Putin initially objected by falsely claiming that the depleted uranium munitions Britain promised to ship to Ukraine contained nuclear components.
He has since softened his words, but claimed Saturday that the ammunition poses an additional danger to both Ukrainian troops and civilians by leaving radioactive trails and contaminating farmland.
“These weapons are harmful not only to the combatants, but also to the people and the environment living in those areas,” he said.
Putin added that Russia has a large stockpile of similar ammunition but has so far refrained from using it.
Depleted uranium is a by-product of the uranium enrichment process needed to make nuclear weapons. Bullets cannot produce a nuclear reaction, but they do emit low levels of radiation. The United Nations nuclear watchdog has warned about the dangers of radiation exposure.
Such ammunition was developed by the United States during the Cold War to destroy Soviet tanks, some of which are now facing Ukraine to break the stalemate in the East. Includes the same T-72 tank that is in