Ukraine war: Russia to deploy tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus in July in warning to West
Vladimir Putin met with longstanding ally Alexander Lukashenko during a meeting in Sochi, Russia
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The movement of nuclear weapons will be the first such movement since the fall of the Soviet Union. Putin previously said in March that the tactical weapons would be transported to Belarus as NATO countries continue to pour military aid and support into Ukraine’s defences.
The Russian President said that the US and Western allies were aiming to expand the conflict by continuing its support of Volodymyr Zelensky’s troops. During a meeting with Belarusian president Alexander Lukashanko in Sochi, he confirmed that the tactical nuclear weapons are ready to move in early July.
What did Putin say?
In a Kremlin transcript of the meeting, Putin told Lukashenko: "Everything is going according to plan. Preparation of the relevant facilities ends on July 7-8, and we will immediately begin activities related to the deployment of appropriate types of weapons on your territory."
Tactical nuclear weapons include short-range weapons which are used to target troops on the battlefield, falling short of holding the capability of full nuclear warheads. The amount of weapons due to be transported to Belarus has not been confirmed by the Kremlin, however Russia is known to hold at least 2,000 units of the weapon including short-range warheads, bombs and artillery rounds.
Lukashenko, who thanked the Russian leader for the confirmation of the movement during the conversation, has been a staunch ally of Putin throughout the war. Russian troops were sent into Ukraine from Belarusian territory at the beginning of the war in February 2022 with the approval of Lukashenko, with Russian forces and weapons also being held in the country ever since.
In addition to the confirmation that the weapons were to be transported, Putin also said that Ukraine's highly-anticipated counter-offensive had already begun. He said: “As to whether [the counteroffensive is] bogged down or not, we can state that all counteroffensive attempts made so far have failed. But the offensive potential of the Kiev regime’s troops still remains."
Putin added: “It is known that during offensive operations, losses are about three to one. This is a classic. But in this case, it significantly exceeds these classic indicators. I will not reproduce the numbers now, but they are impressive.
“In none of the areas of hostilities have the Ukrainian troops achieved the tasks assigned to them. This is an absolutely obvious thing.”
How is the West responding to Russia's nuclear threats?
It comes as Western allies keep close tabs on Russia’s movement of nuclear weapons, with caution issued against the use of such weapons during the war with Ukraine.
The country’s close relationship to Russia has led to the UK imposing new sanctions against Belarus, which was previously a member of the Soviet Union. New sanctions have been imposed on the import of gold, cement, wood and rubber, while the export to Belarus from the UK of banknotes, machinery and material used to produce chemical and biological weapons has also been blocked.
The British government has also introduced measures to stop Belarusian media companies from “ spreading propaganda in the UK”. Social media companies and internet providers in the UK have blocked access to sanctions Belarusian media outlets.
UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said: "This new package ratchets up the economic pressure on Lukashenko and his regime which actively facilitates the Russian war effort and ignores Ukraine’s territorial integrity."
The conflict moved along in recent days following the collapse of the Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine, affecting residents in both Ukrainian and Russian controlled areas. Kherson was shelled as evacuees arrived in the city, however both Russia and Ukraine have blamed both for the dam collapse and ensuing shelling attacks.