Russia intends to place nuclear weapons near the border of Belarus with NATO

(Reuters) – Russia will move its tactical nuclear weapons closer to Belarus’ western border, Russia’s envoy said in Minsk on Sunday, bringing it to NATO’s doorstep in a move likely to further escalate the confrontation between Moscow and the West.

In one of Russia’s most explicit nuclear signals since beginning its invasion of Ukraine 13 months ago, President Vladimir Putin said on March 26 that Russia would deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.

The two Slavic neighbors are officially part of a “union state” and have been in talks for years of further integration, a process that accelerated after Minsk allowed Moscow to use Belarusian territory to send troops into Ukraine last year.

Russia’s ambassador to Belarus, Boris Gryzlov, told Belarusian state television that the weapons “will be transferred to the western borders of our federal state and will increase the prospects for ensuring security.”

This will be done despite the noise in Europe and the United States.

Gryzlov did not specify where the weapons would be located, but confirmed that, at Putin’s request, the storage facility would be completed by July 1 and then moved to western Belarus.

Belarus is bordered to the north by Lithuania and Latvia and to the west by Poland, all part of NATO’s eastern wing that was augmented with additional troops and military equipment after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Other US and Kiev allies said they were concerned about the possibility of Russia sending tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus, with President Joe Biden saying it was “disturbing”.

President Alexander Lukashenko said on Friday that Belarus would also allow Russia to station nuclear intercontinental missiles there if needed.

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(Reporting by Lydia Kelly from Melbourne); Editing by Stephen Coates

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