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Friday, May 24, 2024

Belarus now a ‘nuclear power’ – Putin

The construction of Belarus’ first nuclear power plant has given rise to a “whole new industry,” the Russian leader said

Belarus has joined the club of “nuclear powers,” President of Russia Vladimir Putin said on Monday. He was referring to Minsk successfully operating its first nuclear power station, which was built by Rosatom, Russia’s state atomic energy corporation.

Belarus’ energy ministry gave the official green light in November to the commercial operation of the station’s second power unit. With a total power-generating capacity of 2,400 megawatts, the plant is expected to cover up to 40% of the nation’s energy needs, the media reported at that time.

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“This is a major step forward,” Putin said on Monday, commenting on the development. The Russian leader said that construction of the power plant had given rise to a “whole new industry” in the neighboring country. “In this sense, Belarus has certainly become a nuclear power,” he added.

Located not far from the city of Ostrovets in northwestern Belarus, the power plant was built between 2013 and 2023 by Atomstroyexport, a subsidiary of Rosatom. It is the first nuclear power station outside of Russia to use Rosatom’s state-of-the-art nuclear reactors of the 3+ generation, RIA Novosti reported.

In 2023, Moscow also stationed nuclear weapons in Belarus, following repeated requests from Minsk. The Belarusian leadership cited aggressive Western policies and the perceived threat posed by US nuclear weaponry on the soil of some of Washington’s allies in Europe. Russia also signaled its readiness to use any weaponry at its disposal to protect Belarus, should it be attacked.

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Military cooperation between the two neighbors further accelerated amid the ongoing conflict between Kiev and Moscow. Putin announced his decision to station nuclear weapons in Belarus in March 2023 in response to the UK’s plans to provide Ukraine with depleted uranium munitions – a move slammed by Moscow as reckless and irresponsible.

In July 2023, Russia said it could consider withdrawing its tactical nuclear weapons from Belarus if the US and NATO reverse their current political course and remove Washington’s nuclear arsenal from Europe, and dismantle its infrastructure.