Ukraine’s government on Sunday called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to “counter the Kremlin’s nuclear blackmail” after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced plans to install tactical atomic weapons in Belarus.
A Ukrainian official said Russia “took Belarus hostage nuclear.”
Tensions rose when an explosion inside Russia injured three people on Sunday. Russian authorities blamed the blast on a Ukrainian drone, which damaged residential buildings in a town 175 kilometers (110 miles) south of Moscow.
Russia has said the plan to install tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus is in response to growing Western military support for Ukraine. Putin announced the plan in a televised interview on Saturday, saying he was responding to Britain’s decision to send anti-tank shells containing depleted uranium to Ukraine.
Putin argued that by deploying its tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, Russia was following the example of the United States. He pointed out that Washington has nuclear weapons in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey.
“We are doing what they have been doing for decades, stationing them in certain allied countries, preparing the launch pads and training their crews,” he said.
Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, tweeted on Sunday that Putin’s announcement was “a step towards internal destabilization” of Belarus that maximized “the level of negative perception and public rejection” of Russia and Putin in Belarusian society. The Kremlin, Danilov added, “took Belarus hostage nuclear.”
On Saturday, Putin argued that Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has long called for his country to return to nuclear weapons to counter NATO. Belarus shares borders with three NATO members, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, and Russia used Belarusian territory as a staging ground to send troops to neighboring Ukraine on February 24, 2022.
Both Lukashenko’s support for the war and Putin’s plans to place tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus have been denounced by the Belarusian opposition.
Tactical nuclear weapons are intended for battlefield use and have a short range and lower power than nuclear warheads mounted on long-range missiles. Russia plans to retain control over those it sends to Belarus, and construction of storage facilities for them will be completed on July 1, Putin said. ___