Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday that Moscow would station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, Russian state media reported.
Russia will “complete construction of a storage facility for tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus on July 1,” Putin said, according to a report by Ria Novosti.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has agreed to the deployment, which won’t violate obligations under nuclear nonproliferation agreements, Putin was quoted as saying. Moscow would not transfer control of the nuclear arms to Minsk, according to the reports.
“We agreed with Lukashenko that we would place tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus without violating the nonproliferation regime,” Putin said, according to Tass.
“The United States has been doing this for decades,” Putin was quoted as saying. “They deployed their tactical nuclear weapons long ago on the territories of their allies, NATO countries, in Europe,” he said.
“We have agreed [with Belarus] that we will do the same. I stress that this will not violate our international agreements on nuclear non-proliferation,” Putin said.
Russia has already stationed 10 aircraft in Belarus capable of carrying tactical nuclear weapons, he said.
The development came as intense fighting continued around the Ukrainian town of Bakhmut, which Russia has been trying to capture for months. The Russian forces’ assault on the town has “largely stalled,” the British Defense Ministry said on Saturday.
The ministry said there was “extreme attrition” on the Russian side around Bakhmut, but that “Ukraine has also suffered heavy casualties” in its defense of the area, which has become a focal point of the war.
Moscow may be shifting its operational focus following “inconclusive results from its attempts to conduct a general offensive since January 2023,” the ministry said.
Gabriel Gavin contributed reporting.