New York Daily News
Ukraine urges UN move vs. Vlad nuke bid
Ukraine demanded Sunday that the UN Security Council hold an emergency meeting to deal with Russia’s threat to put tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, calling the plan “nuclear blackmail” by President Vladimir Putin.
The Russian strongman announced his menacing plan Saturday night, claiming it was a response to the West’s military support for Ukraine.
He singled out Britain’s decision last week to supply Ukraine with armor-piercing ammunition that contains depleted uranium.
Condemning Putin’s plan, Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said the UN Security Council must act swiftly.
“Ukraine expects effective action to counter the Kremlin’s nuclear blackmail by the U.K., China, the U.S. and France, including as permanent members of the UN Security Council, which have a special responsibility to prevent threats of aggression using nuclear weapons,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement Sunday.
“The world must be united against someone who endangers the future of human civilization,” the ministry said.
Under Putin’s plan, Russia will be taking Belarus “as a nuclear hostage,” Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, tweeted Sunday.
Tactical nuclear weapons are short range and are meant for battlefield use, compared with powerful nuclear warheads that are fitted to long-range missiles.
The U.S. has estimated Russia has some 2,000 tactical nuclear weapons, including bombs to be carried by tactical aircraft, short-range missile warheads and artillery rounds.
Russia plans to finish building storage facilities for the weapons in Belarus, its close ally, by July 1, Putin said.
The U.S. will “monitor the implications” of Putin’s announcement but has not seen “any indications Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon,” a National Security Council spokeswoman said.
Putin compared his plan for Belarus to the United States stationing nuclear weapons in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and Turkey.
“We are doing what they have been doing for decades, stationing them in certain allied countries, preparing the launch platforms and training their crews,” Putin said in an interview on state television. “We are going to do the same thing.”
The German foreign ministry called the move a “further attempt at nuclear intimidation,” the German news agency dpa reported.
Putin claimed Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko had been asking for nuclear weapons to counter NATO, as Belarus shares borders with NATO members Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.
Russia used Belarus as a staging ground for its invasion of Ukraine last February.
The secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council also said the nuclear move would raise “the level of negative perception and public rejection” of Russia and Putin inside Belarus.
Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who lives in exile, tweeted: “Europe won’t be safe until Belarus dictator is removed & brought before tribunal to face justice for crimes against our country & Ukraine.”
In his objection to the ammunition Britain is providing Ukraine, Putin claimed the rounds leave radioactive traces and can contaminate agricultural land. He said Russia has similar ammunition but has not used it.
Depleted uranium, a byproduct of the process used to build nuclear weapons, does emit low levels of radiation, and the UN nuclear watchdog has warned about possible dangers of exposure.
The rounds were first developed by the U.S. to destroy Soviet tanks during the Cold War.
In fighting on the ground, Russia’s assault on the town of Bakhmut in the Donetsk province “has largely stalled,” Britain’s Defense Ministry said in an intelligence update over the weekend.
“This is likely primarily a result of extreme attrition of the Russian force,” it said, adding that Russia appeared to be moving to a “more defensive operational design.”
The seven-month assault on Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine is proving to be the longest battle of the war. Russia is using regular troops and fighters with the mercenary Wagner Group.
The top commander of Ukraine’s military said its forces in Bakhmut were pushing back against the Russian troops.
“Thanks to the titanic efforts of the defense forces, the situation is being stabilized,” Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi said in a post on Telegram.
A spokesman for Ukraine’s eastern forces, Serhii Cherevaty, warned that Russian forces were continuing to slam Bakhmut with artillery and airstrikes.
“The coming week will tell,” Cherevaty said on Ukrainian television.