Belarus receives Russian nuclear weapons; Tikhanovskaya criticises West’s silence

Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has voiced her concerns over the potential transfer of nuclear weapons from Russia into the control of Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko. In a recent interview with the BBC, she criticised Western politicians for remaining silent on the issue. This marks the first deployment of tactical nuclear weapons outside of Russia since the collapse of the USSR in 1991.

Lukashenko, Belarus’ authoritarian leader, confirmed the arrival of the first “missiles and bombs” during a staged interview with a Russian state TV presenter. Positioned among military vehicles and hardware in the Belarusian countryside, Lukashenko cryptically stated that not all of the weapons had been received yet, but they would come gradually.

Belarus has been a key ally for Russia, and played a significant role in President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Lukashenko claimed that the Russian bombs were “three times more powerful” than those used by the US in World War Two on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a statement intended to unsettle Ukraine’s Western allies.

The Belarusian leader argued that he had not simply requested these nuclear weapons from Putin, but demanded them for protection from external aggression – a falsehood he also uses to justify his suppression of political opposition. Lukashenko has wielded power since 1994 but sparked mass protests and a brutal crackdown by the Belarusian KGB security service and riot police after claiming victory in controversial elections in 2020.

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In the 1990s, Belarus, along with Ukraine and Kazakhstan, relinquished its nuclear arsenal in exchange for security guarantees from post-Soviet Russia and the West. This recent change of events is significant, although no proof of the Russian weapons being transferred has been provided yet.

Putin initially announced the transfer in March, noting that the US had deployed similar weapons in Europe. He added that the move would occur once storage sites had been prepared. Lukashenko now asserts that Belarus has “more storage sites than village dogs” and that several have been renovated. Moscow maintains control of the missiles, which are tactical and not longer-range strategic weapons.

In response to these developments, Tikhanovskaya believes that this deployment poses no new threat to NATO countries, which is why they are not taking it seriously. She thinks that Western countries see no distinction between a missile launched from Russia or Belarus, despite Russian nuclear weapons already being stationed in the westernmost Kaliningrad region, where Poland and the Baltic states are well within range.

Tikhanovskaya emphasised that Belarusians do not want nuclear weapons in their country. “This is like the last step to keeping our independence. And they [in the West] are staying silent about that,” she said.

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Lilly Larkin

Lilly is a writer with a diverse international background, having lived in various countries including Thailand. Her unique experiences provide valuable insights and culturally sensitive perspectives in her news reporting. When not writing, Lilly enjoys exploring local art scenes, volunteering for community projects, and connecting with people from different cultures.

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