Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Saturday an agreement with Belarus for the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of that country, which shares a border with Ukraine.
"We do not cede them. The United States does not cede them to its allies either. In principle, we do the same thing that they did for decades," he assured public television.
Putin stressed that said agreement does not violate existing disarmament treaties and that on July 1 the construction of a silo to place said weapons in the neighboring country will have been completed.
He acknowledged that the trigger for the announcement was the decision of the United Kingdom to supply the Ukrainian army with ammunition with depleted uranium, although London assures that it is not a nuclear weapon.
Although, straight away, Putin recalled that the Belarusian president, Alexandr Lukashenko, had long ago requested the deployment of this type of weapon on the soil of the former Soviet republic.
Ukraine has repeatedly accused Minsk of being an accomplice in the current military campaign, although Lukashenko is hiding behind NATO's militarization of its borders.
The Russian leader acknowledged that the British ammunition is not considered a weapon of mass destruction, but it is a "most dangerous" weapon, especially because it creates a radioactive cloud after impact.
"I must say that Russia, of course, has what to respond with. Without exaggeration, we have hundreds of thousands, hundreds of thousands of those shells. We have not used them yet," he said.
In turn, he warned that Western weapons will only prolong the conflict, which "will only lead to a great tragedy, nothing more."
Putin already warned on Tuesday that Moscow will be forced to react if Ukraine uses weapons with a "nuclear component."
The United Kingdom's Undersecretary for Defense, Anabell Goldie, responded on Monday on the website of the British Parliament to a question from Lord Hylton, a member of the House of Lords, about the possibility of sending these projectiles to Ukraine.
"In addition to sending a squadron of Challenger 2 tanks to the Ukraine, we will supply DU shells," Goldie said, noting that they are more effective at killing armor.
The British Ministry of Defense accused Russia on Monday of "misinforming" for saying that depleted uranium ammunition has a "nuclear component."
A spokesman for this ministry pointed out that "the British Army has used depleted uranium in its armor-piercing projectiles for decades" and "it is a standard component and has nothing to do with nuclear weapons or capabilities."
The high representative of Foreign Policy of the European Union (EU), Josep Borrell, affirmed this Saturday that the deployment of Russian tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus represents "another escalation of the conflict". Borrell, who is at the Ibero-American Summit that is being held in Santo Domingo, added that it is also "another sign of the collaboration of the dictatorial regime of Belarus with Russia."
Belarus, which has backed Russia in its war in Ukraine, warned in January that it would receive more weapons and equipment from its neighbor as the two continue to boost military cooperation. The Belarusian government has repeatedly said that it will not enter the war in Ukraine, although last year's attack already served as a platform for the Russian advance. Moscow deployed thousands of forces to Belarusian territory under the pretext of military exercises before launching its offensive and then funneled troops into Ukraine as it began its invasion on February 24. The new capabilities of Russian aviation in that area follow the same line.
Russian forces have been arriving in Belarus all the time. A significant contingent of Russian troops, equipment, and MIG-31 fighter jets began entering Belarus on October 15.
Recently the Belarusian leader left the door open to attack Ukraine if the Ukrainians attacked first. A provocation that is easy to imposter. Since the beginning of the war, Ukraine has been securing its northern border.
Since the beginning of the year, Ukraine has been concerned about the possibility of a new attack from Belarus. Russia sent troops and war materiel to Belarus in January, raising fears that Moscow could use its ally's territory to attack Ukraine from the north.
Lukashenko has blamed Western nations for the war, accusing them of seeking a confrontation with Russia and provoking this bloodshed.
Bolstering Russian aircraft capabilities in Belarus is one way Putin can use his autocratic ally without getting him into too much trouble. One argument against Belarus' full entry into the war is that "the small military boost provided by the Belarusian army would not be worth the serious risk of destabilizing Belarus, which has become a reliable military springboard for Russia," Artem Shralbam noted in December. , analyst at the Carnegie Center. Moscow appears to be following the same approach, but to an ever more reckless degree. Belarus is now more than ever a nuclear springboard for Russia, pointing towards Ukraine.
According to the criteria of The Trust Project