President Alexander Lukashenko late Tuesday said Belarus has begun taking delivery of Russian tactical nuclear weapons.
The warheads are shorter range and on the less powerful scale, but still three times more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945, Lukashenko said.
“We have missiles and bombs that we have received from Russia,” Lukashenko said in an interview on Russian state TV.
Russia will retain control of the weapons.
Russian President Vladimir Putin had announced the plan to move tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus back in March, provoking outrage from outrage from the West, including the United States, the European Union and NATO.
On Friday he announced the transfer would begin because storage facilities in Belarus had been made ready to house them. Lukashenko said Tuesday that Belarus had numerous storage facilities left over from the Cold War era and had restored about a half dozen of them.
Belarus, Russia’s closest ally in its war, shares a border with Ukraine. It also borders three NATO member nations: Lithuania, Latvia and Poland.
Lukashenko claimed that he “demanded” the weapons of Putin.
“We have always been a target,” Lukashenko said. Then, repeating an accusation he’s made numerous times since the opposition accused him of being elected fraudulently, sparking mass protests in Belarus, he added, “They [the West] have wanted to tear us to pieces since 2020. No one has so far fought against a nuclear country, a country that has nuclear weapons.”
Shortly after Putin made his March announcement to move the tactical nukes, Lukashenko had claimed that Russia might move strategic nuclear weapons, which could include missile-borne warheads, to Belarus as well.
The United States, meanwhile, has said it has no intention of altering its own stance on strategic nuclear weapons and has not seen any signs that Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon.