The Kremlin’s plans to station tactical atomic weapons in Belarus demonstrates that Russia is taking its ally as a “nuclear hostage,” Ukraine’s top security official said Sunday.
NATO also chastised Russian leader Vladimir Putin as spokesperson Oana Lungescu called Russia’s nuclear rhetoric “dangerous and irresponsible,”
But Moscow said it was making the move in response to the West’s increasing military support for Ukraine. Putin, announcing the plan on state TV, cited a British decision last week to provide Ukraine with armor-piercing rounds containing depleted uranium. The rounds are not considered nuclear weapons.
Putin said he was doing in Belarus what the U.S. has done for decades in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey. And he pressed his recurring theme that the West was responsible for Russia’s audacious invasion of its neighbor.
“They pretend they had nothing to do with it. They are the initiators of this conflict,” he said. “And today they are handing over millions more munitions, hardware and so on.”
Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, tweeted Sunday that Putin’s announcement was “a step toward internal destabilization” and that Putin “took Belarus as a nuclear hostage.”
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►Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told graduates of the Institute of the Navy their nation needs “a victory over the enemy at sea as well as on land and in the sky.”
►Hungary supports a cease-fire in Ukraine but does not expect Russia to keep the territories it occupies, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said: “Stopping the war and sitting around the table does not mean that you accept the status quo.”
Actor Orlando Bloom paid a weekend visit to Kyiv, stopping at one of almost 200 UNICEF-supported children’s centers in the country. The “Spilno” center is underground in the metro to ensure safety from missile strikes, and for a few hours every day parents can drop off their young children to “give them a sense of normalcy, to play games and just be kids,” Bloom said in an Instagram post. Spilno means “together” in Ukrainian.
Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office reported that since Russia invaded 13 months ago at least 465 children have been killed and 942 wounded. Thousands more children from Russia-occupied areas in Ukraine are believed to have been forcibly deported to Russia, the office says.
Bloom’s film credits include recurring roles in “The Lord of the Rings”, “The Hobbit” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie series.
The Kremlin is intensifying effort to seek volunteers to replenish its troops by advertising cash bonuses and other benefits. Recruiters are making cold calls to eligible men. Enlistment offices are working with universities and social service agencies to lure students and the unemployed.
Both sides anticipate counteroffensives that could mean heavy losses. A mobilization in September of 300,000 reservists sent men scrambling to the borders because most men under 65 are formally part of the reserve.
Contributing: The Associated Press