Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that Moscow will deploy some of its tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus next month, a move that comes as Ukraine launches its long-expected counteroffensive.
Putin said during a meeting with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko that work on building facilities for the nuclear weapons will be completed by 7-8 July, and they will be moved to the territory of Russia’s neighbour and ally quickly after that.
Russia used Belarus’ territory to send its troops into Ukraine last February and has kept forces and weapons on the territory of its ally.
“Everything is proceeding as planned,” Putin said in televised remarks as he hosted Lukashenko at his residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. “On July 7-8, the preparations of the relevant facilities will be completed and we will immediately start the activities linked to the deployment of those weapons on your territory.”
Tactical nuclear weapons are intended to destroy enemy troops and weapons on the battlefield. They have a relatively short range and a much lower yield than nuclear warheads fitted to long-range strategic missiles that are capable of obliterating whole cities.
Russia didn’t say how many nuclear weapons would be sent to Belarus. The US government believes Russia has about 2,000 tactical nuclear weapons, which include bombs that can be carried by aircraft, warheads for short-range missiles and artillery rounds.