Russia will start deploying nuclear weapons in Belarus when the necessary facilities there are ready there in early July, President Vladimir Putin told the Belarussian leader at a Friday meeting. It was the first time Russia's president has suggested a specific timeframe for his plans,, to deploy "tactical nuclear weapons" to the country just north of , which is one of Russia's few allies in the region.
"Everything is going to plan," Putin said in a televised portion of his meeting with Belarus' longtime authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko in Sochi, on Russia's Black Sea coast, adding that the two countries were deepening their cooperation on security.
"On July 7 or 8, preparations for the corresponding [nuclear] facilities will be done, and we will start activities regarding the deployment of the corresponding type of weapons on your territory at once," Putin told his ally in the clip.
The announcement came as Ukrainian forces mount a counteroffensive, reclaiming occupied ground from Russian troops in the south and east of the country. A U.S. official told CBS News on Friday that the long-awaited counteroffensive was underway, with brigades trained by U.S. and NATO forces making good progress as they engage Russian troops in the Zaporzhzhia region.
Lukashenko said the two countries should proceed on the assumption that global sanctions against them, an unprecedented number of which have been imposed over Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine and Belarus' facilitation of it, would continue into the future.
"There's no point hoping that the sanctions will be lifted. No point even talking about it," Lukashenko said. "We need to rely only on ourselves."
The two leaders had previously agreed that Russia would deploy short-range, land-based "tactical" nuclear missiles in Belarus, which shares an almost-700-mile land border with Ukraine, and that they would be under Russian command. Putin's forces have used Belarus as a staging ground since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
If Putin makes good on his plans, it would be the first deployment of Russian tactical nuclear weapons outside Russian territory since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Reuters news agency reported.
The Biden administration has condemned Russia's stated plan since it was first announced, and a National Security Council spokesperson on Friday called the move another example of Belarus' leader "making irresponsible and provocative choices."
Reiterating previous statements from Washington in March and May, the spokesperson said the U.S. had "not seen any reason to adjust our own nuclear posture, nor any indications that Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon."