Russia will place tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus near its ally’s borders with NATO countries, the Russian envoy to Minsk has said, in a move set to escalate tensions with the West.
Russian ambassador to Belarus Boris Gryzlov said on Sunday night that the weapons would be moved to the country’s western border as part of moves to “ensure security”.
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“This will be done despite the noise in Europe and the United States,” Gryzlov told Belarusian state television.
Gryzlov said a storage facility would be completed by July 1, without specifying exactly where the weapons would be stationed.
The envoy’s comments come after Russian President Vladimir Putin last month announced plans to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.
Belarus shares borders with Lithuania, Latvia and Poland, all of which are members of NATO, the military alliance originally established to deter Soviet expansion in Europe after World War II.
NATO has increased the number of its troops stationed in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland by nearly tenfold since Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, one of Putin’s closest allies, said on Friday that some of Russia’s strategic nuclear weapons could be deployed to his country’s territory along with a position in Russia’s tactical nuclear arsenal.
Tactical nuclear weapons have a shorter range and lower yield than strategic nuclear weapons and are designed for carrying out limited strikes on the battlefield.