Putin Boosted Belarus' Ability to Carry Nuclear Weapons, Lukashenko Says

Russian President Vladimir Putin has boosted Minsk's ability to carry nuclear weapons, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said Friday.

Lukashenko, a longtime ally of Putin, credited the Russian leader with modifying his military's SU-24 warplanes to carry nuclear weapons.

He said that together with Putin, Minsk agreed to modernize the country's warplanes, and that Belarus would immediately react should the West cause the country any problems, state-owned news agency BelTA reported.

"They [the West] must understand that neither helicopters nor planes will save them if they go for escalation," Lukashenko was quoted as telling reporters in Minsk. "We, along with Putin, said once in St. Petersburg that we will adapt the Belarusian Su [-24] planes as well to make them capable to carry nuclear arms. Do you think we were just yakking? Everything is ready."

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with his Belarus counterpart Alexander Lukashenko (L) during a press conference following their talks at the Kremlin in Moscow on February 18, 2022. SERGEI GUNEYEV/Sputnik/AFP/Getty Images

Belarus does not own its own nuclear weapons, and according to RFE/RL, its fleet of Su-24 warplanes was supposedly decommissioned a decade ago.

"It's not a good idea to escalate things with Belarus because that would be an escalation with the Union State [of Russia and Belarus] which has nuclear weapons. If they start to create problems ... the response will be immediate."

It comes after Putin told Lukashenko in June that Russia would soon provide the country with missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, specifically, Iskander-M tactical missile systems, which the Russian leader said "can use both ballistic and cruise missiles, both in conventional and nuclear versions."

Lukashenko has allowed Moscow to station its troops in Belarus and conduct large-scale military drills in the country, although Belarusian troops have not joined Putin's forces in invading neighboring Ukraine.

Belarus, which has sided with Moscow throughout the invasion, congratulated Ukraine on the country's Independence Day on Wednesday.

"I am convinced that today's contradictions will not be able to destroy the centuries-old foundation of sincere good-neighborly relations between the peoples of the two countries," Lukashenko said in a statement on his official website to mark Ukraine's formal celebration of its independence.

"Belarus will continue to stand for the preservation of harmony, the development of friendly mutually respectful contacts at all levels," Lukashenko said.

The statement added that the Belarusian state "wished the Ukrainians a peaceful sky, tolerance, courage, strength and success in restoring a decent life."

On Wednesday, Ukraine marked 31 years of independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The day coincided with the 6-month anniversary of Putin launching his full-scale invasion.