Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko said on Thursday that Russia had started moving nuclear weapons to its western neighbor and ally, after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his intention to transfer them in March.
There were no new comments from Russia on the introduction of nuclear weapons in Belarus.
“The transfer of nuclear munitions has begun,” Lukashenko told reporters during a visit to Moscow.
Lukashenko has allowed his territory – which borders Ukraine as well as EU and NATO members Poland and Lithuania – to serve as a launching pad for the Russian offensive in Ukraine.
In March, Putin announced he would station tactical – or short-range – nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus, drawing condemnation from the West.
Lukashenko said Putin informed him on Wednesday that he had signed a decree on the transfer.
Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya said on Thursday that the move “would not only endanger the lives of Belarusians, but also create a new threat against Ukraine and all of Europe”.
“It will make Belarusians hostage to Russian imperial ambitions,” Tikhanovskaya added.
Tactical nuclear weapons are battlefield weapons that, although devastating, have a lower yield than 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.
Belarusian troops began training on Russian nuclear-capable missile systems in April.