Belarus has finished preparing some of its military aircraft for the possible deployment of Russian nuclear weapons, President Alexander Lukashenko revealed on Friday.
“You remember [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and I said we will modify Belarusian Su jets so that they could carry nuclear weapons. Did you think we were blabbing? It’s all done!” he said, as quoted by national news agency Belta. The remark came as he was discussing NATO’s military deployments near Belarus’ borders.
Lukashenko was referring to his meeting with the Russian president in late June, during which the Belarusian leader shared concerns over Poland’s requests for the US to deploy American tactical nuclear weapons on its soil.
The Poles “are training to deploy nuclear warheads. Could you please at least help us modify warplanes that we have… so that they could carry nuclear weapons,” he said at the time.
He later estimated that the necessary modifications could be complete within a couple of months.
The US has been training non-nuclear NATO members like Poland how to use its tactical nuclear weapons for decades. Moscow has long called such exercises a violation of Washington’s non-proliferation commitments, which the US has denied.
During the meeting with Lukashenko in June, Putin offered help to modernize Belarusian warplanes at Russian military factories, and to train its pilots to alleviate Minsk’s concerns about NATO.