Ukraine’s government on Sunday called an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to “counter the Kremlin’s nuclear blackmail” after Russian President Vladimir Putin revealed plans to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.

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

But Moscow said it took the initiative in response to increasing Western military aid to Ukraine. Putin announced the plan in a televised interview broadcast on Saturday, saying it was triggered by a decision in Britain last week to provide Ukraine with armor-piercing rounds containing depleted uranium.

Putin claimed that by deploying its tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, Russia was following the US lead. He noted that Washington has nuclear weapons based in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey.

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

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In a statement on Sunday, Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry condemned the move and called for an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council.

“Ukraine expects effective measures to counter the Kremlin’s nuclear blackmail from Britain, China, the United States and France, including as permanent members of the UN Security Council, which has a special responsibility for preventing threats of aggression with nuclear weapons,” the statement said. .

“The world must unite against someone who endangers the future of human civilization.”

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Putin says Russia will station nuclear weapons in Belarus

Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, tweeted on Sunday that Putin’s announcement was “a step towards internal destabilization” of Belarus that maximized the “level of negative perception and public rejection” of Russia and Putin 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 Sunday in a town far from the border between the two countries. State news agency Tass reported that authorities identified the drone as a Ukrainian Tu-141.

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

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Russian state news agency Tass reported that authorities identified the drone as a Ukrainian Tu-141. The Tu-141 entered service with the Soviet Army in the 1970s. It is said to have been decommissioned in 1989, then reintroduced in Ukraine in 2014. It has a range of about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles)

Ukraine has not yet commented on the incident.

On Saturday, Putin claimed that Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has long asked to have nuclear weapons in his country again to counter NATO. Belarus shares a border with three NATO members – Latvia, Lithuania and Poland – and Russia used Belarusian territory as a staging ground to send troops to neighboring Ukraine on February 24, 2022.

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

Tactical nuclear weapons are intended for use on the battlefield and have a short range and low yield compared to much more powerful nuclear warheads mounted on long-range missiles. Russia plans 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 kept its tactical nuclear weapons in special depots on its territory, and moving part of the arsenal to a storage facility in Belarus would escalate the Ukrainian conflict by placing them closer to Russian aircraft and missiles already stationed there.

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

In Germany, the foreign ministry called it a “further attempt at nuclear intimidation,” the German news agency dpa reported late Saturday. The ministry went on to say that “the comparison made by President Putin with NATO’s nuclear participation is misleading and cannot be used to justify the step announced by Russia.”

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