President Vladimir Putin on Saturday said Russia will station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, one of Moscow’s closest allies in eastern Europe.
President Putin said the move would not violate nuclear non-proliferation agreements and compared it to the United States stationing its weapons in Europe, according to Russian state media.
Additionally, Putin said Russia has dispatched ten aircraft to Belarus which has the capability to carry tactical nuclear weapons, Reuters reported.
During an interview with Russian state TV, Putin emphasized that prior to this, Russia had transferred certain ‘Iskander’ tactical missile systems to Belarus, which has the capability to launch nuclear weapons.
However, Putin did not specify when these nuclear weapons will be transferred to Belarus. Since 1990, this is the first time Russia has stationed such weapons beyond its borders.
The United States said it did not believe Russia was preparing to use nuclear weapons after the announcement. “We have not seen any reason to adjust our own strategic nuclear posture,” the US Defense Department said in a statement.
President Putin told Russian state television on Saturday that Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko had long raised the issue of stationing tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.
“There is nothing unusual here either,” the Russian leader said. “Firstly, the United States has been doing this for decades. They have long deployed their tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of their allied countries.”
Previously, Russian officials had said the country is ready to use any means, including nuclear weapons, to defend itself.
President Putin’s comments come after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky renewed his plea for more military support from his Western allies.
The rising tensions between Russia and the West over the invasion of Ukraine have led to further escalations on the ground. The US and other NATO member states continuously supply arms to Ukraine to fight against Russian aggression, whereas, Moscow also assesses its option to strengthen its defense systems against a possible escalation of the war.