Putin ally Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko said in a Friday address to the nation and parliament that Belarus will defend itself by any means, including with nuclear weapons.
“We will preserve sovereignty and independence and provide everything possible, including with a nuclear arsenal,” he said, according to Interfax.
“Our refitted aircraft can also carry nuclear munitions,” Lukashenko said, according to Belta.
The news comes just days after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Moscow will station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, in what would be the first time Russia places nuclear arms outside of the country since the mid-1990s. Moscow has already sent some Iskander tactical missile systems, used to launch nuclear weapons, to Belarus, Putin added. And according to British intelligence, Russia has already deployed KILLJOY missiles, capable of carrying conventional or nuclear warheads, to Belarus.
Belarus and Russia have been working together for years as a so-called “union state,” in which both countries work to bring their militaries and other sectors closer and closer together. In the past year, Putin has increasingly leaned on Belarus to wage war in Ukraine, with Russia using Belarus as a staging ground for the invasion. Belarus and Russia have formed joint military groupings in Belarus in preparation for potential military action.
Now, Belarus is embracing Russia’s interest in placing nuclear weapons in Belarus and the return of nuclear forces to its country. It previously gave up nuclear weapons in 1996 to Russia after gaining independence from the Soviet Union. Belarus previously updated its constitution in February of last year, at the outset of Russia’s invasion into Ukraine, to allow for nuclear weapons in its territory.
Lukashenko paired his words of warning that Belarus is willing to defend its nation with nuclear weapons with an accusation that Poland is preparing to invade Belarus.
“They are preparing to invade the territory of Belarus to destroy our country,” Lukashenko said, according to Interfax.
It’s not the first time Belarusian officials have raised alarm bells about perceived threats from Poland and issued promises to respond forcefully. The head of the border committee of Belarus, Anatoly Lappo, warned last fall that Poland was acting provocatively and that Belarus’ response would be “immediate and cruel.”
Earlier this week, Ryhor Azaronak, a Belarusian propagandist, warned that Belarus is prepared to attack Lithuania and Poland with nuclear weapons.
“Belarus is a nuclear state! A state that is capable, in case of an attack on its territory, to respond with tactical nuclear weapons,” Azaronak said. “Warsaw will melt and Vilnius will drown. We will watch the sunset and rise of a plague mushroom over the Polish bog. This will happen.”
“You heard what the Russian president said about the relevant infrastructure in Belarus’ territory. I’d like to clarify: the entire infrastructure has been created and is ready,” Lukashenko said Friday.
Lukashenko noted that not only tactical but also strategic nuclear weapons may be a part of Belarus’ arsenal.
“If we have to, Putin and I will bring strategic nuclear weapons here, too. And those foreign scum, who are now trying to blow us up from the inside and from the outside, have to understand it. We will stop at nothing in defense of our countries, our states, and our peoples,” Lukashenko said.
Russia is slated to conduct training for crews to operate the newer tactical nuclear weapons this week, according to the BBC.
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