Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko said Thursday Russia had started moving nuclear weapons to its western neighbor and ally after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced plans to hand them over in March.
There were no new comments from Russia on nuclear weapons shipments to Belarus.
“The transfer of nuclear munitions has started,” Lukashenko told reporters during a visit to Moscow.
Lukashenko has allowed his territory – which borders Ukraine and EU and NATO member states Poland and Lithuania – to serve as a launch pad for Russia’s Ukraine offensive.
In March, Putin announced that he would deploy tactical – or short-range – nuclear weapons on Belarusian territory, which the West condemned.
Lukashenko said Putin informed him on Wednesday that he had signed a decree on the transfer.
Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya said Thursday the move would “not only endanger the lives of Belarusians, but also create a new threat to Ukraine and all of Europe.”
“This makes Belarusians hostage to Russia’s imperial ambitions,” Tikhanovskaya added.
Tactical nukes are battlefield weapons that, while devastating, have less impact compared to long-range strategic weapons.
Putin’s announcement had raised fears of a nuclear conflict, but experts and governments said the move was unlikely to change the course of the conflict.
In April, Belarusian troops began training on nuclear-capable Russian missile systems.