One of Vladimir Putin’s closest international allies has said Russia has started moving tactical nuclear warheads to Belarus for storage.
Alexander Lukashenko, the country’s president, added that it was possible that the deadly weapons had already been transported there.
Putin’s fellow Eastern European dictator made the revelation during a meeting of the Eurasian Economic Forum in Moscow.
He said: “We had to prepare storage facilities and the rest over there (in Belarus). We’ve done all of that. This is why the relocation of nuclear munitions began.
When questioned if the weapons had been moved already, he replied: “Maybe. I will go and take a look.”
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The despot’s comments were made hours after officials from Russia and Belarus signed a pact that allows Moscow to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, the Guardian reports.
The move could raise the stakes of any future political turmoil in Belarus, which was beset by mass demonstrations against Lukashenko and his government between 2020 and 2021.
Moscow has defended the plan to deploy tactical nuclear weapons on foreign soil, claiming to have been forced into the move by provocation from Western allies of Ukraine providing it with support.
The Kremlin says it will retain control over the tactical nuclear weapons, which may be launched on Iskander-M missiles or from Su-25 planes, both of which Belarus has in its arsenal.
Belarus shares a border with three countries that are members of Nato and has missiles that could reach numerous capital cities.
The deal brings the armies of Russia and Belarus closer together as Moscow seeks a stronger alliance with Minsk. Some experts are predicting an eventual loss of sovereignty from Belarus to its bigger, more powerful neighbor.
Russia’s defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, said the two nations would look for other ways to integrate their militaries.