Belarus’ Lukashenko says Russian nuclear arms needed to deter threats from West

BELARUS (Reuters): Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Friday that Russian tactical nuclear weapons set to be deployed in his country would protect it from Western threats, alleging that there were plans to invade Belarus from neighboring Poland.

“Take my word for it, I have never deceived you. They are preparing to invade Belarus, to destroy our country,” Lukashenko said in an annual address to lawmakers and government officials.

President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday that Russia would station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, its first deployment of nuclear armaments outside its borders since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Minsk said the missiles would offer protection after what it called a campaign of pressure from the United States and its allies aimed at overthrowing Lukashenko, who has been in power for 28 years.

In Friday’s speech, Lukashenko also called for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and for talks to start on a lasting peace settlement, warning that Russia would be forced to use “the most terrible weapon” if it felt threatened.

“It is impossible to defeat a nuclear power. If the Russian leadership understands that the situation threatens to cause Russia’s disintegration, it will use the most terrible weapon. This cannot be allowed,” he said.