Lukashenko talks up threats to Belarus to justify 'nuclear deterrence'

Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko said on Thursday his country was facing grave threats that had required it to allow Russia to deploy dozens of tactical nuclear weapons on its territory.

Publication: 25.04.2024 - 16:23
Lukashenko talks up threats to Belarus to justify 'nuclear deterrence'
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Lukashenko alleged, without providing evidence, that the Belarus opposition planned to seize a district in the west of the country and request support from NATO troops - an assertion dismissed by the opposition as ludicrous.

Addressing the same meeting, Ivan Tertel, head of Belarus's KGB security service, said his operatives had thwarted strikes on the capital Minsk by drones launched from NATO-member Lithuania, which denied mounting any such attack.

Tertel also said that Belarusian security was working on a daily basis to thwart what he called constant attempts to smuggle weapons into Belarus from Ukraine "for carrying out terrorist attacks and sabotage".

Lukashenko, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has frequently talked up the dangers of an attack by NATO or Ukraine as justification for closer military integration with Russia and for maintaining his defence and security apparatus on a constant state of high alert.

He was speaking at a meeting of the Belarusian People's Congress, a constitutional body of up to 1,200 delegates which was due to approve an updated National Security Concept and military doctrine for Belarus.

State news agency Belta quoted Lukashenko as saying that current realities required changes to the country's security stance.

"It has acquired a new topic: nuclear deterrence. Those who will push us towards it should know about it and have a rational look at the straightforward consequences of their ill-considered decisions, to put it mildly," it quoted him as saying.

Russia's TASS agency quoted Lukashenko as saying "several dozen" Russian tactical nuclear weapons had been deployed in Belarus under an agreement that he and Putin announced last year - the first time Russia has deployed nuclear missiles in a foreign country since the Soviet era.


The Belarusian opposition, whose leaders are all in prison or have fled abroad, derided Lukashenko's statement that it wanted to grab a chunk of the west of the country.

"It's a task for a psychotherapist, I think, to comment on Lukashenko because he's living in his own world, it seems he is losing the connection to reality," said Franak Viacorka, a top aide to exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.

"This Congress is a desperate attempt somehow to restore his confidence in himself internally but also to show to the outside world that he still has supporters. Of course the easiest way to consolidate his supporters is to create the feeling of an external enemy," he told Reuters.

Lukashenko was quoted as telling the Congress that the risk of military incidents along his country's border with Ukraine was quite high.

He said Poland, another western neighbour of Belarus and a NATO member, should not expect aggressive actions from Minsk, but that Belarus had nonetheless moved several combat-ready battalions from the east of the country to the west.

Asked about Tertel's assertion that Belarus had thwarted strikes by drones launched from Lithuania, Polish Deputy Defence Minister Cezary Tomczyk warned against giving in to what he called Belarusian and Russian propaganda.

"These people are doing everything to destabilise the European Union and NATO...every message from the side of the Russian Federation or from the side of Belarus should be treated as an element of propaganda, not as an element of facts," he told a press conference in Warsaw.

"These are not reliable partners, these are not people we should trust, and we should do everything to protect ourselves from them."

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