Kyiv Assails Putin’s Planned Tactical Nuclear Weapons Deployment In Belarus 


Ukraine assailed Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday for his plans to position tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus along Ukraine’s northern border and called for an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting to address the potential threat.

“Russia once again confirms its chronic inability to be a responsible steward of nuclear weapons as a means of deterrence and prevention of war, not as a tool of threats and intimidation,” Kyiv’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

Putin announced the deployment of the tactical nuclear weapons on Saturday, saying it was warranted because of the West’s increasing military support for Ukrainian forces, including Britain’s decision last week to send armor-piercing rounds containing depleted uranium to Ukraine.

Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council secretary, Oleksiy Danilov, tweeted Sunday that Putin’s announcement was “a step towards internal destabilization” of Belarus and that the Kremlin “took Belarus as a nuclear hostage.”

Putin said that Russia’s positioning of tactical nuclear warheads in Belarus was no different than the United States placing 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 platforms and training their crews,” the Russian leader said.

Putin said Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has long asked to have nuclear weapons in his country to counter possible NATO threats from nearby Western allies. Belarus shares borders with three NATO members — Latvia, Lithuania and Poland — while Russia used Belarusian territory as a staging ground to send troops into Ukraine when the invasion began in February of last year.

Tactical nuclear weapons can be used on the battlefield and have a short range and a low yield compared with much more powerful nuclear warheads fitted on long-range missiles. Putin said Russia would maintain control over the undisclosed number he sends to Belarus, and construct storage facilities for them by July 1.

The U.S. said it would “monitor the implications” of Putin’s announcement; but National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said that so far Washington hasn’t seen “any indications Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon” in its attack on Ukraine.

In other war developments, the British defense ministry said Sunday in its daily intelligence update that Russia has “likely launched” at least 71 Iranian-designed Shahed series drones against Ukrainian targets since the beginning of March.

The drone attacks stopped for two weeks in late February, but Russia is likely receiving a supply of them again, Britain said.

Meanwhile, the top commander of Ukraine’s military said Saturday his forces are repelling Russian troops in the battle for the town of Bakhmut.

“The Bakhmut direction is the most difficult. Thanks to the titanic efforts of the defense forces, the situation is being stabilized,” Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi said in a post on Telegram, giving a synopsis of a telephone call with Adm. Sir Tony Radakin, Britain’s chief of the defense staff.

The British defense ministry said Saturday in its daily intelligence report on Ukraine that “Russia’s assault on the Donbas town of Bakhmut has largely stalled. This is likely primarily a result of extreme attrition of the Russian force,” and added Russia is likely conducting “a more defensive operational design after inconclusive results from its attempts to conduct a general offensive since January 2023” in its campaign in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross noted the challenges facing some 10,000 Ukrainian civilians, many older or with disabilities, in Bakhmut and surrounding settlements.

“They are living in very dire conditions, spending almost the entire days in intense shelling in the [underground] shelters,” said Umar Khan of the ICRC, speaking to a news briefing via video link from Dnipro, Ukraine.

“All you see is people pushed to the very limits of their existence and survival and resilience,” Khan said.


The VOA is the Voice of America

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