Plans to deploy tactical nukes in Belarus won’t be affected by Western sanctions, Kremlin says

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The Kremlin said Monday that threats of sanctions against Belarus would not stop its plan to station tactical nuclear weapons in the country, a move that drew international criticism after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the decision over the weekend.

Putin said that Russia had reached an agreement with Belarus to station tactical nuclear weapons, which are meant for use on the battlefield and are shorter-range than intercontinental missiles, raising fears about intensified aggressions against Ukraine.

Western allies of Ukraine immediately responded to the news by criticizing the move by Putin and threatening sanctions against Belarus if it allowed Russia to put nuclear weapons in the country.

“Belarus hosting Russian nuclear weapons would mean an irresponsible escalation & threat to European security,” the European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell tweeted on Sunday. “Belarus can still stop it, it is their choice. The EU stands ready to respond with further sanctions.”

But the Kremlin said it was undeterred by threats of possible sanctions in retaliation for its maneuver in Belarus. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday the West’s reaction would not influence its decision.

“Russia’s plans certainly cannot be affected by such a reaction,” Peskov said of the threat of sanctions.

Putin framed the move as no different than the stationing of nuclear weapons by the U.S. in European countries, saying “we are doing what they have been doing for decades.”

The Russian move rang alarm bells in Ukraine, with the country’s leadership calling on the United Nations to convene an emergency meeting of the Security Council and appealing to Belarus to not become a “hostage” of the Putin regime.

“Ukraine appeals to Belarusian society to prevent the fulfillment of the criminal purposes regarding the deployment of nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus … which will further turn this country into a hostage of the Kremlin,” Ukraine’s foreign ministry said in the statement on Sunday.

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