kyiv claimed on Sunday that Russia is holding Minsk “nuclear hostage” after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons to his ally Belarus.
“The Kremlin took Belarus hostage nuclear”, wrote on Twitter the secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine Oleksiy Danilov. He added that the measure was “a step towards the internal destabilization of the country.”
On Sunday, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhaylo Podolyak accused the Russian leader of “violating the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.”
“(Putin) admits that he is afraid of losing and all he can do is scare” peoplePodolyak also said on Twitter.
For Danilov, Putin’s announcement “maximizes the level of negative perception and public rejection of Russia and Putin in Belarusian society.”
Dictator Alexander Lukashenko, in power in Belarus for nearly 30 years, is a key Putin ally. Ukraine has repeatedly accused Minsk of being an accomplice in the current military campaign, although Lukashenko is hiding behind NATO’s militarization of its borders.
Putin said on Saturday that he and Lukashenko “agreed” that Russia would station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus “without violating our international agreements on nuclear non-proliferation.”
In February 2022, Minsk allowed the Kremlin to launch its invasion of Ukraine from Belarusian territory.
Since then there has been fear that Belarus will join its ally’s offensivebut Lukashenko said he would “only if he is attacked.”
Putin did not say how many atomic weapons Moscow will keep in Belarus. The US government believes the Kremlin has some 2,000 tactical nuclear weapons, including bombs that can be carried by tactical aircraft, short-range missile warheads and artillery shells.
The Russian leader claimed that by placing its tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, Moscow is emulating the example of the United States, noting that Washington has atomic weapons in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey.
For his part, The United States said it would “monitor the implications” of Putin’s announcement.
“We have not seen any reason to make changes to our own strategic nuclear position or any indication that Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon,” said Adrienne Watson, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council. “We remain committed to the collective defense of the NATO alliance.”
(With information from AFP, EFE, AP)
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