Russia will soon position tactical nuclear weapons in neighboring Belarus, according to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who revealed the plan over the weekend in the latest Cold War-style escalation tied to Moscow‘s war in Ukraine.
During an interview broadcast on Russian television over the weekend, Mr. Putin said the move will be made in response to increasing NATO weapons flowing to Ukrainian forces.
The Russian president specifically cited Britain’s recent announcement to provide Kyiv with munitions containing depleted uranium.
The British Defense Ministry last week said it will provide Ukrainian forces with the special armor-piercing rounds. Such rounds were first developed by the United States during the Cold War to destroy Soviet tanks, including the same T-72 tanks Russian forces are now using in Ukraine.
In his interview broadcast Saturday in Russia, Mr. Putin did not specify how many tactical nuclear weapons the Kremlin would deploy to Belarus, which borders Russia and Ukraine and whose government is seen as a key Moscow ally.
The Russian president said the move is justified.
“There is nothing unusual here either: the United States has been doing this for decades,” Mr. Putin said. “They have long placed their tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of their allies.”
Tactical nuclear weapons are intended for use on the battlefield and have a short range and a low yield compared with much more powerful warheads fitted to long-range missiles.
Russia plans to maintain control over those it sends to Belarus and construction of storage facilities for them will be completed by July 1, Mr. Putin said.
The Russian president has previously issued veiled threats to use tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine, rhetoric that has ramped up fears that the war there could spiral into a nuclear confrontation between Moscow and Washington.
There was no immediate response from the Biden administration over the weekend, although Ukrainian officials expressed outrage.
The Kremlin is taking “Belarus as a nuclear hostage,” Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine‘s National Security and Defense Council tweeted.
Mr. Putin separately said that Russia is also prepared to deploy its own depleted uranium ammunition in Ukraine if Kyiv receives such munitions from Britain.
• This article is based in part on wire service reports.
• Guy Taylor can be reached at email@example.com.
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