- Russia signs agreement with Belarus on nuclear weapons storage
- The storage space must be ready on July 1
- Russia will deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus
- Lukashenko says weapons are on their way
MOSCOW, May 25 (Reuters) – Russia on Thursday moved forward with a plan to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, whose leader said warheads were already moving, on the Kremlin’s first deployment of such bombs outside Russia since the fall of 1991. the Soviet Union.
President Vladimir Putin says the United States and its allies are waging an escalating proxy war against Russia after the Kremlin chief sent troops to Ukraine last February.
The nuclear deployment plan was announced by Putin in an interview with state television on March 25.
“The collective West is essentially waging an undeclared war against our countries,” Putin’s defense minister Sergei Shoigu said during a meeting with his Belarusian counterpart in Minsk, according to the Russian defense ministry.
The West, Shoigu said, was doing everything it could to “prolong and escalate the armed conflict in Ukraine”.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said tactical nuclear weapons were already in circulation after saying Putin had signed an order, although there was no confirmation of it from the Kremlin itself.
“The nuclear weapons movement has already begun,” Lukashenko told reporters. When asked if the weapons were already in Belarus, he said: “Possibly. When I come back I will check.”
Shoigu said the documents he signed in Minsk related to the process of storing tactical nuclear weapons at a special facility in Belarus.
Putin has repeatedly warned that Russia, which has more nuclear weapons than any other country, will use any means to defend itself, and has portrayed the war in Ukraine as a struggle for Russia’s survival against an aggressive West.
The United States and its allies say they want Ukraine to defeat Russian troops on the battlefield, but deny they want to destroy Russia — and deny that the war in Ukraine is in any way related to NATO’s post-Soviet expansion .
It is still unclear when exactly Russian tactical nuclear weapons will be deployed in Belarus, which borders three NATO members: Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. Russia will retain control of the weapons.
Tactical nuclear weapons are nuclear weapons used for specific tactical gains on the battlefield, and thus tend to be smaller in yield than the strategic nuclear weapons designed to destroy the largest cities in the United States or Russia.
Russia has vast numerical superiority over the United States and NATO’s military alliance when it comes to tactical nuclear weapons: the United States believes Russia has about 2,000 such working tactical warheads.
The United States has about 200 such tactical nuclear weapons, half of them on bases in Europe. These 12-ft B61 nuclear bombs, with varying yields from 0.3 to 170 kilotons, are deployed at six airbases in Italy, Germany, Turkey, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Shoigu said Iskander-M missiles, which can carry conventional or nuclear warheads, had been handed over to the Belarusian armed forces, and some Su-25 aircraft had been converted for the possible use of nuclear weapons.
“Belarusian soldiers have received the necessary training,” Shoigu told his ministry. He said the two countries can take further measures to ensure their safety.
“NATO’s military activities have become as aggressive as possible,” Shoigu said.
The United States has said the world faces its greatest nuclear danger since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis over comments made by Putin during the Ukraine conflict, but Moscow says its position has been misinterpreted.
The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, signed by the Soviet Union, says that no nuclear power can transfer nuclear weapons or technology to a non-nuclear power, but it does allow the weapons to be deployed beyond its borders, but under his control.
Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and Mark Trevelyan; Edit Peter Graff and Hugh Lawson
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