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Putin: Russia to station nuclear weapons in Belarus as a clear warning to the West

origin 1Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko shake hands during their meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow. ©Vladimir Astapkovich, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Saturday plans to station tactical nuclear weapons in neighboring Belarus, a warning to the West as it ramps up military support for Ukraine.

Putin said the move was triggered by Britain’s decision last week to supply Ukraine with armor-piercing shells containing depleted uranium.

Tactical nuclear weapons are intended for battlefield use and have short ranges and low yields compared to much more powerful nuclear warheads mounted on long-range missiles. Putin said Russia intends to maintain control over those it sends to Belarus and that construction of storage facilities for them would be completed by July 1.

He did not say how many nuclear weapons Russia will keep in Belarus. The US government believes Russia has about 2,000 tactical nuclear weapons, which include bombs that can be carried by tactical aircraft, warheads for short-range missiles, and artillery shells.

Putin argued that by deploying its tactical nukes in Belarus, Russia was following the US lead, noting that the US has nuclear weapons based in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey.

“We are doing what they have been doing for decades, placing them in some allied countries, preparing launch pads and training their crews,” Putin said, speaking in an interview on state television aired Saturday night. “We will do the same thing.”

Russia has stored its tactical nuclear weapons in dedicated depots on its territory. Moving some of the arsenal to a storage facility in Belarus would up the ante in the Ukrainian conflict, placing them closer to the Russian aircraft and missiles already stationed there.

The United States said it would “monitor the implications” of Putin’s announcement.

For more information, watch the RockedBuzz via Euronews report in the video above.