Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko said on Thursday that Russia had begun transferring nuclear weapons to its western neighbor and ally after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced plans to transfer them in March.
There were no new comments from Russia about bringing the nuclear weapons to Belarus.
“The transfer of nuclear munitions has begun,” Lukashenko told reporters during a visit to Moscow.
Lukashenko has allowed his territory – which borders Ukraine and EU and NATO members Poland and Lithuania – to serve as a launching pad for Russia’s offensive in Ukraine.
In March, Putin announced that he would station tactical – or short-range – nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus, prompting condemnation from the West.
Lukashenko said Putin had informed him on Wednesday that he had signed a handover decree.
Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya said on Thursday that the move “would not only endanger the lives of Belarusians, but also pose a new threat to Ukraine and all of Europe”.
“It will make Belarusians hostages to Russian imperial ambitions,” Tikhanovskaya added.
Tactical nuclear weapons are battlefield weapons that, while devastating, have a smaller yield compared to long-range strategic weapons.
Putin’s announcement had sparked fears of a nuclear conflict, but experts and governments said the move was unlikely to change the course of the conflict.
Belarusian troops began training on Russian nuclear-powered missile systems in April.