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Lukashenko claims transfer of Russian nuclear weapons to Belarus completed months ago

by Nate Ostiller and The Kyiv Independent news desk December 26, 2023 10:37 AM 2 min read
Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko attends a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in Sochi, Russia, on Sept. 15, 2023. (Mikhail Metzel/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)
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Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko said on Dec. 25 that the transfer of Russian nuclear weapons to Belarus was completed in early October.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and his Belarusian counterpart Viktor Khrenin signed an agreement in May 2023 to transfer tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus, a process that Russian leader Vladimir Putin said had begun in June.

Lukashenko spoke about the completed weapons delivery at the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union summit in Moscow, according to Lukashenko's official government website. He did not specify how many tactical nuclear weapons were transferred or where they were placed within Belarus.

Putin threatened to deliver the weapons in March 2023, the first deployment of Russian nuclear weapons abroad since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Shoigu reportedly said that Russia would remain in control of the weapons.

Belarus' Foreign Ministry confirmed the claim on March 28, adding that the regime was "forced" to do so amid so-called "unprecedented political, economic, and informational pressure" from the U.S., U.K., EU members, and NATO.

Western countries and NATO denounced the move, calling it “dangerous and irresponsible.”

Tactical nuclear weapons are technically designed for battlefield use and have a range of up to 500 kilometers if launched by land and up to 600 kilometers if launched by air or sea, according to the Nuclear Threat Initiative think tank.

"In some respects, (tactical nuclear weapons) are more dangerous than strategic weapons. Their small size, vulnerability to theft, and perceived usability make the existence of TNWs in national arsenals a risk to global security," the think tank said in April 2022.

Despite the potential risk posed by the deployment of such weapons on Belarusian soil, the White House said shortly after the May announcement that it had not changed its nuclear threat assessment.

The White House will "continue to monitor, certainly the implications here... We have not seen any reason to adjust our own nuclear posture... nor any indications Russia is preparing to use nuclear weapons for Belarus," said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

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