Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Transport Minister Vitaly Savelyev in Moscow on 25 March 2023. EFE/EPA/GAVRIIL GRIGOROV/SPUTNIK/KREMLIN POOL MANDATORY CREDIT

Belarus ready to host Russian tactical nukes

Moscow, Mar 25 (EFE).- President Vladimir Putin said Saturday that Moscow and Minsk have agreed in principle that Russian tactical nuclear weapons may be stationed in Belarus.

“The United States has been doing this for decades. They have long placed their tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of allied countries, NATO countries, in Europe,” Putin said during an interview on Russian television 13 months into Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“In six states, if memory serves: Germany, Turkey, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Greece. There are no nukes in Greece right now, but there is a storage facility,” he said.

Putin said that the stationing of Russian tactical nukes in Belarus would not violate Russia’s obligations under New START, the last remaining arms-control agreement between Moscow and Washington.

The construction of a silo in Belarus suitable for storing the weapons should be complete by July 1 and the training of Belarusian military personnel in the handling of tactical nukes will begin April 3, the Russian president said.

He said that Russia will maintain control over any nuclear weapons placed in Belarus, as Washington does with US nukes stationed on the territory of its allies.

Noting that Belarusian President Alexandr Lukashenko has long asked for Russian tactical nukes to be stationed in his country, Putin said that Moscow decided to accede to the request after the United Kingdom announced that it will supply Ukraine with depleted uranium (DU) shells as munitions for the Challenger 2 tanks London is giving Kyiv.

Russian officials have said in the past that Moscow would regard the use of DU munitions against its forces as the equivalent of the detonation of a nuclear “dirty bomb.”

The British government insisted this week that DU munitions are not in the category of nuclear weapons.

“The fact is that they do not belong to the category of weapons of mass destruction. That’s true,” Putin said Saturday. “But the core of the projectile with depleted uranium still generates so-called radiation dust, and in this sense it of course amounts to a weapon of the most dangerous kind.”

“Without exaggeration, we have hundreds of thousands, literally hundreds of thousands of such (DU) rounds. We haven’t used them yet,” he said. EFE mos/dr