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WorldRussiaBelarus to seek nuclear weapons from Russia amid Ukraine-Russia conflict

Belarus has held a referendum on Sunday to adopt a new constitution that would ditch its non-nuclear status at a time when the nation has become a launchpad for Russian troops invading Ukraine and marching on Kyiv.

The vote, almost certain to pass under the tightly controlled rule of President Alexander Lukashenko, could see nuclear weapons on Belarusian soil for the first time since the nation gave them up after the fall of the Soviet Union.

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It raises the stake at a time when Lukashenko has fallen behind Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military assault on Ukraine after early playing an intermediary role between the two neighbours.

While speaking at a polling station on Sunday, Lukashenko said that he could ask Russia to return nuclear weapons to Belarus.

“If the West continues to transfer nuclear weapons to Poland and Lithuania, to our borders, then I will also turn to Putin to return the nuclear weapons that I gave away without any conditions,” Lukashenko added.

Lukashenko turned to Russia after mass protests erupted against his 28-year-long rule in August 2020, weathering Western sanctions with the help of Russian loans.

In the 2020 vote, his rival exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya called on Belarusians to use the referendum vote to protest the war against Ukraine.

During an address, she said, “For a long time, I did not know how to start this appeal. Because how can you demand courageous actions from people who live in fear for a year and a half? The war we’ve been dragged into started two days ago.”

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“But until now, the Belarusians have not declared publicly that they are against it, they have not shown this to the Ukrainians by their actions. So do I have the right to ask you for action? Maybe not. But I won’t forgive myself if I don’t try.”

In videos and photos posted on social media, dozens of people gathered at polling stations in Minsk and other cities in Belarus. Several videos show the crowd chanting, “No to war.”

 

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