Lukashenko offers nuclear weapons to countries willing to “join the Union State of Russia and Belarus”

() — Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko stated that countries that are ready to “join the Union State of Russia and Belarus” will receive nuclear weapons. The remarks come days after confirming that the transfer of some tactical nuclear weapons from Moscow to Minsk has begun.

Lukashenko, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, made the comments in an on-camera interview published on the state-run Russia 1 channel on Sunday.

During the interview, Lukashenko said: “Nobody cares that Kazakhstan and other countries have the same close relations that we have with the Russian Federation.”

“It’s very simple,” he added. “Join the State of the Union of Belarus and Russia. That’s it: there will be nuclear weapons for everyone.”

Signed in 1999, the Agreement on the Establishment of the Union State of Belarus and the Russia Treaty established a legal basis for a broad alliance that encompassed the economy, information, technology, agriculture and border security, among other things. , between the two countries, according to the Belarusian government website.

It was not clear how broad Lukashenko’s invitation to join the State of the Union was, and he did not offer further details.

But his comments about handing over nuclear weapons to like-minded allies are likely to raise concerns at a time of rising global proliferation and as Moscow threatens the world with its own atomic arsenal as its war against Ukraine falters.

This Thursday, the Belarusian autocrat said which had begun the transfer of some tactical nuclear weapons from Russia to Belarus, after an agreement signed by Moscow and Minsk.

Putin and the suspension of the nuclear arms treaty 3:27

“It was necessary to prepare storage sites, etc. We did all this. Thus, the movement of nuclear weapons began,” Lukashenko said, according to the state news agency Belta.

He also promised the safety of those weapons, saying: “This is not even up for discussion. Don’t worry about nuclear weapons. We are responsible for this. These are serious problems. Everything will be fine here.”

Putin has previously said that Russia would retain control over any tactical nuclear weapons stationed in Belarus and compared the move to Washington’s practice of placing nukes in Europe to prevent host countries such as Germany from breaking their commitments as non-nuclear powers.

Belarus has not had nuclear weapons on its territory since the early 1990s. Shortly after gaining independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union, it agreed to transfer all Soviet-era weapons of mass destruction stationed there to Russia.

Since invading Ukraine more than a year ago, Putin has used escalating rhetoric on several occasions, warning of the “growing” threat of nuclear war and suggesting that Moscow might abandon its “no first mover” policy.

In March Putin said that Moscow will complete the construction of a facility storage facility for tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus in early July, saying that Russia had already made the transfer to Belarus of an Iskander short-range missile system, which can be equipped with nuclear or conventional warheads.

The tactical nukes are smaller than strategic nuclear weapons, which can decimate entire cities, and are designed for use on a limited battlefield. However, its explosive yields are still enough to cause great destruction and radiation contamination.

What left the meeting between Putin and his counterpart Lukashenko 1:03

heavy sentences

The United States and the European Union, as well as opposition leaders in Belarus, have denounced the move to deploy Russian tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.

“This is the latest example of irresponsible behavior we have seen from Russia since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine more than a year ago,” US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said last Thursday.

Miller added that despite the transfer report, the United States sees “no reason to adjust our strategic nuclear posture” and said there are “no indications that Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon.”

The European Union called the agreement between Moscow and Minsk “a step that will lead to an extremely dangerous escalation.”

And Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted Sunday that Lukashenko’s words “directly indicate that the Russian Federation is deliberately ‘killing’ the concept of a global nuclear deterrent and ‘burying’ the key global Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. ”.

“This fundamentally undermines the principles of global security,” Podolyak said. “There can only be one solution: a tough stance from the nuclear states; relevant UN/IAEA resolutions; extensive sanctions against (Russian state nuclear power company) Rosatom; systemic financial sanctions against Belarus and, ultimately, against Russia”.

Members of the Belarusian opposition also criticized the deal, with exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya saying in a Twitter post that “we must do everything we can to prevent Putin’s plan to deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus.”

“It directly violates our non-nuclear constitutional status and would ensure Russia’s control over Belarus for years to come. And it would further threaten the security of Ukraine and the whole of Europe, ”he said.

Analysts say there are still many unknowns with the transfer.

“We don’t know if it has already started physically, although Lukashenko says yes. We don’t know if any weapons have actually left Russia yet, we don’t know when they will be deployed, we don’t know what kind of weapons will be deployed,” national security expert Joe Cirincione told on Friday.

Cirincione, former chair of the Plowshares Fund, which focuses on reducing the threat of nuclear weapons, said if it went ahead it would be “a historic milestone.”

“We cannot recall another incident where, during a crisis, a nuclear-armed state has taken its weapons out of the garrison and put them in the field, which is effectively what Putin is doing here,” he said.

— ‘s Lauren Kent, Xiaofei Xu and Radina Gigova contributed to this report.

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