Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Friday that Russia’s announced plans to deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus proved that talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping earlier this month had failed.
Although China appeared to be positioning itself as a peace broker between Russia and Ukraine in the weeks leading up to Xi Jinping’s three-day state visit to Moscow, the meeting between the two leaders failed to produce meaningful results in resolving the conflict. breakthrough.
“The signal that Russia wants to deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus tells me that the talks with China have not worked out, have failed,” Zelensky told reporters during a visit to Boucher.
The Ukrainian president also said Belarusian strongman Aleksandr Lukashenko had “lost any importance”, claiming he “could not decide what weapons to deploy in his country”.
Some background: Putin announced last week that Moscow would build a tactical nuclear weapons storage facility in Belarus and finish it in early July. Lukashenko welcomed the move in an address to the nation on Friday, adding that Russia could also deploy strategic nuclear weapons in his country.
The mention of strategic nuclear weapons capable of destroying entire cities is an escalation of Lukashenko’s rhetoric. Russia has not publicly announced any plans to deliver strategic nuclear weapons to Belarus.
Global response: While there is no guarantee that Putin will follow through on his plans for Belarus, any nuclear signal from Putin would raise concerns in the West.
Ukraine, NATO and the EU’s top diplomats have all condemned the plan. The United States played down the move, saying there was no indication Russia would use nuclear weapons.
The announcement of the nuclear program comes as Putin faces mounting problems elsewhere. Read CNN’s analysis of the decision here.
CNN’s Andrew Carey, Ivana Kotasova, Lindsay Isaac and Anna Chernova contributed to this report.