Ukraine has called for an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council over Russia’s announcement that it will station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said: “Ukraine expects effective measures to counter the Kremlin’s nuclear blackmail from Britain, China, the US and France. We demand that an extraordinary meeting of the UN Security Council be immediately convened for this purpose.”

Putin defends the deployment

Russian President Vladimir Putin says the move was triggered by Britain’s decision to supply Ukraine with munitions containing depleted uranium.

“Alexander Grigoryevich Lukashenko has long raised the issue of deploying Russian tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus,” he said. “There is nothing unusual here either. First of all, the United States has been doing this for decades. They have long placed their tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of their allies, the NATO countries in Europe.”

Ten aircraft capable of carrying the weaponry – which are designed for use on the battlefield, rather than wiping out cities – have reportedly already been moved to Belarus.

NATO “vigilant”

It is the first time since the mid-1990s that Russia has based such weapons outside its own territory.

NATO has criticized Russia for its “dangerous and irresponsible” nuclear rhetoric, a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia would station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, Reuters reports.

A NATO spokesperson said on Sunday: “Nato is vigilant and we are monitoring the situation closely. We have not seen any changes in Russia’s nuclear posture that would cause us to adjust our own.”