MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his intention on Friday to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus from early July.
Putin said preparations at the relevant facilities would be completed on July 7 and 8. Then, he said, the relocation would begin.
The statement came after a meeting with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, reported dpa, citing Russian state news agency TASS.
This would mean that the transfer would begin just before the NATO summit in Lithuania, which neighbours Belarus. The NATO summit in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius will take place on July 11 and 12.
Putin had already announced on March 25 that he would transfer Russian nuclear weapons to the ally and former Soviet state of Belarus.
He justified the move by stating the United States had been keeping nuclear weapons in Europe, including in Germany, for years.
If Moscow’s plan is carried out, Belarus will receive nuclear missiles for the first time since the 1990s, following the voluntary surrender of its nuclear weapons after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Iskander missiles, which can be equipped with nuclear warheads, are to be deployed.
According to the TASS report, several Belarusian fighter planes have also been converted to handle the new weapons.-Bernama