Responding to news on 25 May that Belarus has signed an agreement with Russia on the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons on its territory, Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, currently living in exile, issued the following statement in an English-language Twitter post.

Today, the #Belarus regime has signed an agreement with Russia on the deployment of nuclear weapons. It would not only endanger the lives of Belarusians but also create a new threat against Ukraine & all of Europe. 

Even when they are talking about tactical nuclear weapons, most of them are still as powerful as the atomic bomb that killed 140,000 people in Hiroshima. The radioactive fallout would be much worse than the contamination that Belarusians experienced after the 1986 Chornobyl disaster.

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Last week, as G7 leaders gathered in Hiroshima, I urged the world to take action against this dangerous escalation. If we don’t react, then other dictators with nuclear ambitions will feel encouraged to raise the stakes. We can’t play this game, because there is only one outcome; nuclear devastation.

Since the beginning of the Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Putin has used his nuclear arsenal to intimidate the world. As the Russian army has proven ineffective, he is playing the last card that he has.

But these threats didn’t stop the democratic world from supporting Ukraine in the fight for freedom. And we can’t let this latest piece of nuclear blackmail stop us.

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Thousands of people who survived the bombing of their villages and cities have managed to escape from the war zone, but thousands more remain at risk since Russia opened its new front.

The deployment of any kind of nuclear weapons in Belarus is not only a violation of international commitments such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Budapest Memorandum of 1994. It also violates our non-nuclear status under the Constitution & the will of the Belarusian people. It will make Belarusians hostages to Russian imperial ambitions.

 It is not too late, but time is running out. I ask our partners & allies to take firm steps to prevent the deployment of nuclear weapons in Belarus. I ask you to consider preventive sanctions on Russia & Lukashenka’s regime. They must know that if the deployment happens – the dictators will face devastating consequences.

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 Belarusians deserve to live in a free, democratic & safe country. We all deserve to live in a free & safe Europe. Let’s make this come true.

See the video of her delivering the statement here.

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