Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday he would deploy tactical nuclear weapons on neighboring and ally Belarus. Putin has repeatedly issued thinly veiled threats that he might use nuclear weapons on Ukraine, reviving Cold War-era fears.
He also said he would distribute depleted uranium munitions if Kyiv received the munitions from the West after Britain suggested it could supply Ukraine.
“There is nothing unusual here: the United States has been doing this for decades. They have been placing tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of their allies for a long time,” Putin said.
Putin said he spoke with Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko and said “we agree that we are doing the same thing.”
Asked how Moscow would respond if the West supplied Ukraine with depleted uranium shells, following suggestions from the UK that it could supply Kyiv with ammunition, Putin said Russia had a huge arsenal.
“Russia always has something to answer for. Without exaggeration, we have hundreds of thousands of such shells. We have not used them,” added Putin in an interview on Russian television.
The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) has warned that nuclear threats create dangerous uncertainty about their use.
The longer Russia’s operations in Ukraine escalate, the greater the risk of a nuclear attack, ICAN warned last month ahead of the attack’s first anniversary.
Putin announced last month that Moscow would suspend its participation in New START, the last arms control treaty between the world’s two major nuclear powers, Russia and the United States.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg slammed Russia for suspending a nuclear arms limitation treaty with the US, saying it marked the end of Europe’s post-Cold War arms control architecture.
The announcement came after Moscow last August suspended US inspections of military sites under New START.
‘dirty bomb’ claim
Putin previously said in a Kremlin meeting that “threat is increasing” in the use of nuclear weapons but has been evasive in Russian policy.
U.S. officials have expressed fears that Russia could use nuclear weapons if felt on the battlefield and could plant fictitious stories to justify its actions.
Russia has spoken of Ukrainian attempts to detonate a “dirty bomb,” drawing strong denials from Ukraine and a sharp rebuke from the United States, which has rarely communicated directly with Moscow to warn of nuclear use.
Neither the United States nor Russia – by far the largest nuclear weapons power – have officially adopted a policy of not using ultra-destructive weapons.
A recent US posture review by President Joe Biden concluded only that nuclear weapons should only be used in “extreme circumstances.”