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US slams Russia’s planned nuclear deployment to Belarus as 'reckless'

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby speaks during a media briefing. (AP file photo)

The United States has slammed Russia’s planned deployment of nuclear weapons to Belarus as "reckless" and said it will “continue to monitor” the move. 

On Friday, President Vladimir Putin said Russia’s military will begin deploying tactical nuclear weapons in neighboring Belarus as early as next month.

The Russian leader made the announcement as he met with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. 

In response, US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby called the move “another example of just reckless and irresponsible rhetoric” by Russia, which Washington has "to take seriously.”

“We’re doing the best we can to monitor,” he told CNN. “We don’t see anything out there that shows us that there’s an imminent indication of movement of nuclear capabilities, or imminent risk of nuclear war inside Ukraine or even on the continent.”

“We’ve seen nothing that would cause us to change our own deterrent posture when it comes to those kinds of capabilities,” Kirby added.

Russia first announced in late March that it would deploy some nuclear weapons in Belarus after the United Kingdom sent depleted uranium tank munitions to Ukraine.

“Everything is going according to plan,” Putin told Lukashenko on Friday, adding that by the end of the first week of July “the preparation of the relevant facilities will be completed and we will immediately begin measures related to the deployment of the relevant types of weapons on your territory.”

Putin said ‘Iskander’ mobile short-range ballistic missiles, which can deliver nuclear warheads with a range of 500 kilometers, had already been handed over to Belarus.

Sukhoi-25 aircraft, with a range of up to 1,000 kilometers, have reportedly been adapted to carry the warheads.

If the weapons were launched from the main air base outside Minsk, the projectiles could potentially reach virtually all of Eastern Europe, including a host of NATO member states, as well as cities such as Berlin and Stockholm.

President Putin said in March that he had agreed to deploy such weapons in Belarus.

The Russian move will counteract Washington's longtime deployment of similar weaponry in a host of European countries. 

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