Ukraine demands UN meeting on Putin’s nuclear plan

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The Ukrainian government on Sunday called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to “counter the Kremlin’s nuclear blackmail” after Russian President Vladimir Putin revealed plans to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus. station.

A Ukrainian official said Russia “took Belarus as a nuclear hostage”.

But Moscow said it made the move in response to the West’s increasing military support for Ukraine. Putin announced the plan in a television interview broadcast on Saturday, saying it was prompted by a British decision last week to supply Ukraine with depleted uranium armor-piercing bullets.

Putin argued that by deploying its tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, Russia was following the example of the United States. He noted that Washington has nuclear weapons in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey.

“We’re doing what they’ve been doing for decades, stationing them in certain allied countries, preparing the launch pads and training their crews,” he said.

Ukraine’s foreign ministry condemned the move in a statement on Sunday and demanded an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.

“Ukraine expects effective action to counter Kremlin nuclear blackmail by the UK, China, the US and France, including as permanent members of the UN Security Council, who have a special responsibility to prevent threats of aggression with nuclear weapons” , the statement said. . “The world must be united against someone who threatens the future of human civilization.”

Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, tweeted on Sunday that Putin’s announcement was “a step toward internal destabilization” of Belarus that “raised the level of negative perception and public rejection” of Russia. and Putin maximized in Belarusian society. The Kremlin, Danilov added, “took Belarus as a nuclear hostage.”

In Russia, authorities said three people were injured when a Ukrainian drone caused an explosion in a town far from the border of the two countries on Sunday. The state-run Tass news agency reported that authorities identified the drone as a Ukrainian Tu-141.

The explosion damaged residential buildings in the town of Kireyevsk in the Tula region, about 300 kilometers (180 mi) from the border with Ukraine and 175 kilometers (110 mi) south of Moscow. It left a crater about 15 meters (50 feet) in diameter and five meters (16 feet) deep, according to media reports.

Russia’s state news agency Tass reported that authorities identified the drone as a Ukrainian Tu-141. The Tu-141 entered service in the Soviet Army in the 1970s. It was reportedly withdrawn from service in 1989 and reintroduced to Ukraine in 2014. It has a range of about 1,000 kilometers (620 mi)

Ukraine has not yet commented on the incident.

On Saturday, Putin argued that Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has long asked for his country to have nuclear weapons back in order to counter NATO. Belarus shares borders with three NATO members — Latvia, Lithuania and Poland — and Russia used Belarusian territory as a staging point to send troops into neighboring Ukraine on February 24, 2022.

Both Lukashenko’s support for the war and Putin’s plans to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus have been denounced by the Belarusian opposition.

Tactical nuclear weapons are intended for battlefield use and have a short range and low yield compared to much more powerful warheads mounted on long-range missiles. Russia intends to maintain control over those it sends to Belarus, and construction of storage facilities for them will be completed by July 1, Putin said.

Russia has stored its tactical nuclear weapons in dedicated depots on its territory, and moving some of its arsenal to a storage facility in Belarus would raise the bar in the Ukrainian conflict by placing them closer to Russian aircraft and missiles deployed there. are already stationed.

The US said it would “follow the implications” of Putin’s announcement. So far, Washington has seen no “indications that Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon,” National Security Council spokesman Adrienne Watson said.

In Germany, the foreign ministry called it a “new attempt at nuclear intimidation,” the German news agency dpa reported late Saturday night. The ministry continued that “President Putin’s comparison to NATO’s nuclear participation is misleading and cannot be used to justify the move announced by Russia.”

Kirsten Grieshaber contributed to this report from Berlin.

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