Ukraine wants to end Russia's 'nuclear blackmail'
Vladimir Astapkovich Agence France-Presse Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) met his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko at the residence of Novo-Ogaryovo State, outside Moscow, in February.
Ukraine on Sunday called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to counter Russia's “nuclear blackmail” after Vladimir Putin announced that Moscow would deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus.
Over the past year, Russian officials have multiplied thinly veiled threats to use nuclear weapons if the conflict with kyiv escalates significantly. Belarus, an ally of Moscow, borders Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania.
“Ukraine expects effective actions to counter the Kremlin's nuclear blackmail from the UK, China, the US and France” as permanent members of the UN Security Council, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“We demand that an extraordinary meeting of the United Nations Security Council be immediately convened for this purpose,” he added, calling on also the G7 and the EU to put pressure on Belarus by threatening it with “considerable consequences” if it were to accept the Russian deployment.
The first Western country to react to Vladimir Putin's announcement, Germany denounced a “new attempt at nuclear intimidation” by Moscow. “We are not going to let ourselves be diverted from our course” by these threats, an official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Earlier Sunday, Ukrainian Security Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov said “the Kremlin has taken Belarus as a nuclear hostage” and represented a “step towards the internal destabilization of the country”, led since 1994 by Alexander Lukashenko.
On Saturday, Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would deploy “tactical” nuclear weapons in Belarus and that ten planes had already been equipped to be ready to use this kind of weaponry.
“There is nothing unusual here: the United States has been doing this for decades. They have long been deploying their tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of their allies,” Vladimir Putin said in an interview on Russian television.
“We agreed to do the same,” he said. – he added, saying he plans to “train the crews” from April 3 and to “complete the construction of a special warehouse for tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus” on July 1.
Mr. Putin “admits that he is afraid of losing [the war] and that all he can do is scare,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podoliak said on Twitter on Sunday.
He also accused the Russian leader of “violating the nuclear non-proliferation treaty”.
Mr. Putin, in his announcement, specified that this deployment in Belarus would be done “without contravening our international agreements on nuclear non-proliferation”.
While Belarus is not directly involved in the conflict in Ukraine, Moscow used its territory to conduct its offensive on Kiev last year or to carry out strikes, according to Ukrainian authorities.
Vladimir Putin motivated his decision on Saturday by the United Kingdom's desire to send depleted uranium munitions to Ukraine, as mentioned recently by a British official.
Mr. Putin threatened to also use this type of shell, used to pierce armor, if kyiv were to receive it.
He called this type of weapon shell among “the most dangerous” and which “generates what is called radiation dust”.
During recent negotiations in Moscow between Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, the two leaders had stated in a joint statement that a nuclear war “must never be started”, because “there can be no winners”.
Several Russian officials, including the former President Dmitry Medvedev, however, have threatened Ukraine and the West with nuclear weapons since the start of the Russian offensive launched on February 24, 2022.
Russia also suspended the important New Start nuclear disarmament treaty signed with the United States, although it has promised to respect the limitation of its nuclear arsenal until the effective end of this agreement on February 5, 2026.
Russian nuclear doctrine does not provide for the preventive use by Russia of nuclear weapons, but only in response to an attack on it or its allies, or in the event of a “threat to the very existence of the state”.