President Alexander Lukashenko has confirmed in fresh remarks to Russian state television that Belarus has begun taking delivery of Russian tactical nuclear weapons which had earlier been promised by President Vladimir Putin.
Lukashenko in remarks to Rossiya-1 TV channel boasted that the tactical nukes are three times more powerful that the atomic bombs dropped by the United States in World War II on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
"We have missiles and bombs that we have received from Russia," Lukashenko confirmed in the interview, which was also carried by Belarus' Belta state news agency.
"The bombs are three times more powerful than those (dropped on) Hiroshima and Nagasaki," he added, in footage which appeared to feature a military storage facility in the background.
Though stationed on Belarusian territory, the nuclear weapons will remain under the control of Russia's military, and the Kremlin hasn't given any sign it has altered its nuclear use doctrine, which stipulates they can only be launched if Russia and its population are under existential threat.
Back in March, Putin had hinted there may have already been Russian nukes stationed in Belarus, but these and statements since then have remained perhaps purposefully ambigous.
CBS recounts of what Putin said at the time as follows:
Russia has ratcheted up tensions with the West amid its ongoing war against Ukraine, with President Vladimir Putin saying Moscow will deploy "tactical nuclear weapons" in Belarus. The Russian leader said 10 fighter jets capable of carrying tactical nuclear weapons — generally a reference to smaller weapons used for limited battlefield attacks, rather than larger, long-range "strategic" nuclear weapons — were already deployed in Belarus. Putin said Russia would also position nuclear-armed Iskander hypersonic missiles, with a range of around 300 miles, in Belarus.
The Biden administration has meanwhile consistently condemned the Russian leader's "irresponsible nuclear rhetoric," and has said "no other country is inflicting such damage on arms control, nor seeking to undermine strategic stability in Europe." The West has viewed movement of the nukes into Belarus as a major escalation and provocation, but so far rhetoric of NATO officials surrounding this has remained calm.
However, the Kremlin has in response pointed out that the US has stationed nukes in five non-nuclear states across Europe, and even in Turkey.