Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, has promised nuclear weapons to any nation that joins Russia and Belarus.

The comment came just days after the Belarusian leader confirmed the transfer of Russian nuclear weapons to his country. Putin has regularly hinted at a nuclear escalation since the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, sharply escalating tensions with the United States and the West.

«It’s very simple. You have to join the Belarusian-Russian union, and that’s it: there will be nuclear weapons for everyone,» Lukashenko said in a commentary broadcast Sunday night on Russian state television.

“I think it is possible,” Lukashenko added, saying he was expressing his own opinion. “We need to strategically understand that we have a unique opportunity to come together.”

Lukashneko, who is one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s staunch supporters, made the comment in response to earlier remarks by Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev during a summit in Moscow on Wednesday.

Tokayev told the Eurasian Economic Union forum in Moscow on Wednesday that Belarus and Russia enjoy a close relationship in which «even nuclear weapons are shared between the two.»

The Russia-Belarus State of the Union was formed in 1999 and allows the two former Soviet republics to integrate economically, politically, and militarily.

On Thursday, the Belarusian leader confirmed that Russia has made progress on the plan to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, first announced in March.

It comes amid the escalation of Putin’s nuclear rhetoric as his war effort in Ukraine falters. Russia has the world’s largest stockpile of nuclear weapons, which Putin said he will not hesitate to use if the country’s security or existence is threatened.

Belarus, which does not possess its own nuclear weapons after it transferred stocks it inherited from the Soviet era to Russia in the 1990s, is not officially a party to the war in Ukraine, although Moscow used its territory to launch the large-scale invasion. scale. last year.

Putin supported Lukashenko’s authoritarian regime after violent protests nearly toppled «Europe’s last dictator» in 2020, deepening the country’s political and economic dependence on Russia.

In March, the Russian leader announced his plans to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, at Lukashenko’s request, drawing condemnation from the West.

Lukashenko confirmed that the movement of nuclear weapons had already begun on Thursday, without clarifying whether they had already reached Belarusian soil, according to the Belarusian state news agency Belta.

Meanwhile, the defense ministers of the two countries, Sergei Shoigu and Viktor Khrenin, signed documents in Minsk last week, outlining the procedure for keeping Russian nuclear weapons on Belarusian soil, the Russian Defense Ministry said. saying.

Moscow has already delivered to Minsk the «Iskander» missile system, which can carry nuclear weapons, Shoigu said, and helped convert some Belarusian planes for possible use of nuclear weapons.

The State Department denounced the alleged deployment on Thursday, calling it «the latest example of irresponsible behavior» by Russia.