Lukashenko to take Skabeyeva to the nuclear weapons storage
Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus’s controversial President, is on a “collision course with NATO” after agreeing to allow Vladimir Putin to base tactical nuclear weapons there, the country’s exiled opposition leader has warned.
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya also fears the Russian troops who will now be based permanently within Belarus’s borders risk what she termed a “Crimea situation”, in reference to Putin’s annexation of the Black Sea peninsula in 2014.
Both Lukashenko, 68, and Putin, 70, have in recent days confirmed Russia has move tactical nuclear weapons (TCWs) to Belarus in a move which is widely regarded as sending a strong message to Western countries which continue to supply Ukraine with weapons after the invasion of February 24, 2022.
Ms Tsikhanouskaya was forced to flee the country after she was threatened with arrest following the 2020 Presidential election, in which she stood against Lukashenko.
Although officially she only won just over ten percent of the vote, allegations of massive voter fraud were levelled against her opponent. Wide-scale protests against his re-election were brutally put down by Belarusian security forces, with Putin’s backing.
Commenting on the arrival of the TCWs, Ms Tsikhanouskaya said: “This is a negative development from many perspectives.
“It violates the Belarusian Constitution that stipulated that our country would be a nuclear weapon free state.
“It undermines the global non-proliferation regime since this is the first deployment by a nuclear state since 1968 when the Non-Proliferation Treaty was signed.”
Ms Tsikhanouskaya also voiced her concern that Russia would need soldiers stationed permanent in Belarus to guard the various Iskander-M missile sites, as discussed by William Alberque of the International Institute for Strategic Studies last week.
She explained: “As a result, Russians expand their permanent military presence threatening a Crimea scenario for Belarus.
“Finally, Belarusians are taken hostages to foreign interests of a hostile and aggressive state, potentially becoming a target for a retaliation strike should Russians use these weapons from our territory.
In such a way, Belarus is being put on the collision course with its neighbours and with the NATO alliance.”
Belarusians firmly opposed the move which had never been discussed with them, and any attempt to raise concerns had been suppressed, Ms Tsikhanouskaya pointed out.
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The consequence was that Belarus’s corrupt dictator was at the mercy of the Kremlin, she warned.
She continued: “Russians insist that they are solely in control, while Lukashenko has repeatedly argued that it is his weapon too.
“He realises that he is not controlling these weapons means that he is being used by the Kremlin and therefore is embarrassing to his self-view.
“He still wants to project an image of a strongman while everyone sees a cruel lawless puppet of Putin. No matter how this could be explained, nuclear weapons in Belarus is a very bad story, since neither Lukashenko nor Putin strike as mentally adequate.
“Both have demonstrated reckless behaviour disdainful of international law, creating grave threats for regional security and global interests and launching aggression against Ukraine.”
Lukashenko made headlines last month after being pictured with a bandage on his hand and appearing to have difficulty speaking, and question marks remained over his health, stressed Ms Tsikhanouskaya.
She said: “Lukashenko is back on his feet even though one can say that he is a bit different from before plus there is no doubt that he gets a lot of medical help.
“For quite some time, there have been rumours about his health. He does not look, talk, or walk as he used to be and his disappearance in May confirmed the earlier speculations.
“Russians help him keep a grip on power but he does not control people’s minds.
“Belarusians have not given up on their hope to get rid of the dictatorship and this unnerves Lukashenko badly forcing him to maintain the high pace of repressions.”
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