Belarus’s authoritarian ruler Alexander Lukashenko is playing host to an alarming arsenal of Russian nuclear warheads, courtesy of Vladimir Putin and has lost little time in whipping up fears the weapons might one day be fired in anger. During a speech delivered today (August 1) in the town of Belovezhsky, Lukashenko claimed that more than half the nukes that are planned to be deployed to Belarus have now arrived and are already positioned in silos across the country.
He went on to raise the prospect of nuclear weapons being fired against the backdrop of rising tensions between the close Russian ally and neighbouring NATO member Poland.
Lukashenko told the gathered crowd before issuing a thinly veiled warning to the NATO-allied countries in the region: “God forbid we have to use these weapons.”
The Belarusian leader warned: “We don’t interfere in anyone’s garden, but please don’t interfere with us either.”
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Lukashenko added: “Nuclear weapons are security, but God forbid we have to use these weapons, I hope this will not happen.”
Touching on the escalating tensions with Poland following the deployment of Wagner Mercenary fighters, Lukashenko dismissed Polish concerns.
He told those gathered: “Our Western neighbours are going crazy.”
Some 5,000 battle-hardened Wagner veterans have been sent to a base outside of the Belarusian capital Minks while others are stationed not far from the Polish border to train Belarus’ border guards.
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The Polish military responded to the emerging threat across the border by sending reinforcement to the country’s eastern flank.
Lukashenko during a meeting with Putin made remarks that further increased Polish security concerns with the Belarusian leader remarking that Wagner soldiers wanted to cross into Poland but were being kept in check.
He told Putin that Poland “should pray that we’re holding on to [the Wagner fighters] and providing for them”.
Lukashenko added: “Otherwise, without us, they would have seeped through and smashed up Rzeszow and Warsaw in no small way. So they shouldn’t reproach me, they should say thank you.”
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The warning comes amid wider regional concerns about the presence of Wagner and Russian strategic aims in the future.
Some analysts have pointed out that the strategic land corridor sat between Belarus and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, known as the ‘Sulwalki Gap’, could be the target of a Wagner or Russian military operation.
Taking control of the Sulwalki Gap and joining up with Russian forces in Kaliningrad is likely to be a key objective for the Kremlin in the opening stages of an all-out war with NATO.
Cutting the narrow strip of territory would also allow Russia to cut off military supplies to NATO members in the Baltics such as Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia.
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