Kyiv seeks Security Council meet to stop Russian ‘nuclear blackmail’ in Belarus
Kyiv said on Sunday it was seeking an emergency meeting of the United Nation’s Security Council to counter Russia’s “nuclear blackmail” after President Vladimir Putin announced his country would station tactical nuclear arms in Belarus.
Putin said the deployment was similar to moves from the United States, which stores such weapons in bases across Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey, an analogy western allies called “misleading”.
On Sunday, the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said that Brussels was ready to impose new sanctions on Belarus if Minsk were to host Russian nuclear weapons.
“Belarus hosting Russian nuclear weapons would mean an irresponsible escalation and threat to European security. Belarus can still stop it, it is their choice. The EU stands ready to respond with further sanctions,” he tweeted.
With fears of a nuclear war rising since the invasion, experts believe that any Russian strike would likely involve small-size battlefield weapons, called “tactical” as opposed to “strategic” high-powered long-range nuclear weapons.
“Ukraine expects effective actions to counteract the Kremlin’s nuclear blackmail from the United Kingdom, China, the United States and France,” the Ukrainian foreign ministry said.
“We demand that an extraordinary meeting of the UN Security Council be immediately convened for this purpose,” it added.
On Saturday, Putin announced Russia would station tactical nuclear weapons in neighbour and ally Belarus “without violating our international agreements on nuclear non-proliferation”.
The Ukrainian foreign ministry accused Russia of breaching its obligations, and of undermining the “nuclear disarmament architecture and the international security system in general”.
It called on “all members of the international community to convey to the criminal Putin regime the categorical unacceptability of its latest nuclear provocations.”
In the interview broadcast Saturday, Putin said the move to deploy tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus was “nothing unusual”.
– ‘Totally misleading’ –
“The United States has been doing this for decades. They have long placed their tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of their allies,” Putin said.
Putin said he spoke to Lukashenko and said “we agreed to do the same.”
Russia will start training crews on April 3 and plans to finish the construction of a special storage facility for tactical nuclear weapons by July 1.
Germany and NATO said the analogy was deceptive.
“The comparison made by President Putin to nuclear sharing in NATO is misleading and does not justify the step announced by Russia,” an official in German foreign office told AFP.
NATO also joined the criticism, with spokeswoman Oana Lungescu saying “Russia’s reference to NATO’s nuclear sharing is totally misleading. NATO allies act with full respect of their international commitments.”
Lungescu also blasted Russia’s announcement as “dangerous and irresponsible”.
The United States and NATO said separately they did not see grounds to change their nuclear posture.
“We have not seen any reason to adjust our own strategic nuclear posture nor any indications Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon,” the US Department of Defense said in a statement.
– Threats –
Putin has previously said nuclear tensions were “rising” globally but that Moscow would not deploy first.
Back in February 2022, Belarus allowed the Kremlin to launch its invasion of Ukraine from Belarusian territory.
Fears have since risen that Belarus may join its ally’s offensive, but dictator Alexander Lukashenko, a key Putin ally, said he would do so “only if attacked”.
On Sunday secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, Oleksiy Danilov wrote on Twitter that “the Kremlin took Belarus as a nuclear hostage.”
He added that the move was “a step towards the internal destabilisation of the country”.
Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhaylo Podolyak added that “(Putin) admits that he is afraid of losing and all he can do is scare” people.
The Russian leader said renewed discussions with Lukashenko on the issue were spurred by a British official’s suggestion depleted uranium weapons be sent to Ukraine.
Russia has “what it needs to answer” if the West supplied Ukraine with such ammunition, he added.
“Without exaggeration, we have hundreds of thousands of such shells. We have not used them yet.”
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