Russia’s main ally ups the ante and rails at the West in an hours-long televised address.
Russian strategic nuclear weapons might be deployed in Belarus along with part of Russia’s tactical nuclear arsenal, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced last week that his country intended to deploy tactical, comparatively short-range and small-yield nuclear weapons in neighbouring Belarus.
The strategic nuclear weapons such as missile-borne warheads that Lukashenko mentioned during his state-of-the-nation address would pose an even greater threat, if Moscow moved them to the territory of its ally.
Both Lukashenko and Putin have alleged that Western powers want to ruin Russia and Belarus.
“Putin and I will decide and introduce here, if necessary, strategic weapons, and they must understand this, the scoundrels abroad, who today are trying to blow us up from inside and outside,” the Belarusian leader in an hours-long televised address to the nation. “We will stop at nothing to protect our countries, our state and their peoples.”
He added that he does not fear the possibility of new Western sanctions against Belarus, having earlier claimed Minsk was forced into the move because of “unprecedented” Western pressure and insisted the deployment did not violate international agreements.
Call for truce
Lukashenko said Minsk was prepared to defend its sovereignty through any means necessary, including nuclear weapons.
The Belarusian president claimed that Western support for Kyiv increased the likelihood of a nuclear war breaking out in Ukraine and that Belarusian special forces were at the country’s southern border with Ukraine “to prevent provocations”.
Even so, he called for a “truce” in Ukraine and for talks “without preconditions” between Moscow and Kyiv.
“We must stop now, before an escalation begins. I’ll take the risk of suggesting an end of hostilities … a declaration of a truce,” he said.
“All territorial, reconstruction, security and other issues can and should be settled at the negotiation table, without preconditions,” added Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994.
“As a result of the efforts of the United States and its satellites, a full-scale war has been unleashed in [Ukraine] … a third world war with nuclear fires looms on the horizon,” he said.
But the Kremlin played down Lukashenko’s call for peace on Friday, with spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying, “Nothing is changing in the context of Ukraine … The special military operation is continuing, since this is the only way to achieve the goals that our country has today.”
Belarus allowed Russian forces to use its territory as a launchpad for Moscow’s offensive, but Lukashenko has so far refused to send troops over the border.