Belarus held ‘nuclear hostage’ by Putin, says Ukraine

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Ukraine has called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council over Vladimir Putin’s plan to put nuclear weapons in Belarus, saying Minsk was being used “as a nuclear hostage”.

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In one of his clearest nuclear threats since the invasion of Ukraine, the Russian president said construction of facilities for the weapons would be completed by July 1.

He said Russia was following the lead of the United States, which has nuclear weapons in Europe and Turkey, and Britain, which is providing armor-piercing rounds containing depleted uranium to Ukraine.

But NATO criticized his “dangerous and irresponsible” rhetoric on Sunday.

A spokesman said, “The reference to Russia regarding NATO’s nuclear sharing is completely misleading.” “NATO allies act with full respect for their international commitments. Russia has consistently broken its arms control commitments, most recently suspending its participation in the New START treaty.

Oleksiy Danilov, a top security adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said Putin’s plan would also destabilize Belarus. “The Kremlin took Belarus as a nuclear hostage,” he said.

Ukraine’s foreign ministry called an extraordinary meeting of the UN Security Council and called on the international community to take “decisive measures” to stop Russia’s use of nuclear weapons.

But analysts at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said the risk of a nuclear war escalating is “extremely low”.

Mr Putin argued that Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko wanted his country to re-arm nuclear weapons to counter NATO.

Belarus shares borders with three NATO members – Latvia, Lithuania and Poland – and Russia used Belarusian territory as a staging ground to send troops into Ukraine on 24 February 2022.

Tactical nuclear weapons are intended for use on the battlefield and have shorter range and lower yield than more powerful nuclear weapons mounted in long-range missiles.

Russia stores its strategic nuclear weapons in dedicated depots on its territory; Moving part of the arsenals to Belarus would put them closer to Russian aircraft and missiles already deployed in the Ukrainian conflict.

The US said it would “monitor the effects” of Putin’s announcement. Germany called it “another attempt at nuclear intimidation”.

In further escalation of tensions, three people were injured in an explosion inside Russia on Sunday. Russian officials blamed a Ukrainian drone for the explosion, which damaged residential buildings in a city about 110 miles south of Moscow.

Russian state-run news agency Tass reported that authorities had identified the drone as a Ukrainian Tu-141, a Soviet-era device that was reintroduced to Ukraine in 2014.

Similar drone attacks have been common during the war, although Ukraine rarely accepts responsibility.

On the battlefield, Russian forces attacked military targets in Kharkiv, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhya and Kherson, causing significant Ukrainian casualties.

Belarus held ‘nuclear hostage’ by Putin, says Ukraine

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