Belarus will amend its non-nuclear constitution to allow nuclear weapons after a referendum on Sunday during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
According to the Belarus Central Election Commission, turnout was 78.61%, of which 65.2% voted in favor of this change.
With the amendment, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko gave him the option to return nuclear weapons to Belarus’ soil for the first time since the country abandoned nuclear weapons after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and Lukashenko threw his support behind the Russian president. When Vladimir Putin and his military attack on Ukraine raised stakes, citing the need to protect the rights of Russian-speaking groups living east of the country. They also allow Russian troops to stay permanently in Belarusian soil.
The West said it would not be aware of the outcome of the referendum, which was held against the backdrop of a thorough crackdown on the government’s domestic opponents.
Lukashenko said at a polling place on Sunday that he would request Russia to return its nuclear weapons to Belarus if the West moved to arm neighboring NATO countries.
“If you (the West) move nuclear weapons to Poland, Lithuania, our borders, I unconditionally rely on Putin to return the nuclear weapons I have given,” he said.
Belarus handed over its nuclear weapons to Russia Budapest Memorandum of UnderstandingRussia guaranteed to respect independence and sovereignty UkraineBelarus, Kazakhstan in exchange for nuclear disarmament.
and Video message On Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he had a telephone conversation with Lukashenko, explaining “the impossibility of our conflict.” The two leaders haven’t talked for two years.
“I don’t want missiles, planes and helicopters to fly from Belarus to Ukraine. I don’t want the troops to go from Belarus to Ukraine, and he assured me that,” he said. ..
Zelensky said on Sunday that Ukrainian officials will meet with Russian officials without prior conditions at the Ukrainian-Belarus border.
He said Lukashenko assured that “at the time of the departure, negotiations and return of the Ukrainian delegation, all planes, helicopters and missiles located on Belarus’ territory would remain on the ground.”
The new constitution was also created by Lukashenko and empowers the entire Belarusian People’s Parliament, which was occupied by party supporters, local councils, officials, and activists of pro-governmental organizations.
In addition, after the president resigns, he will be exempt from prosecution for life and, if elected, will be given the option to extend the rules for up to 40 years until 2035. His current term ends in 2025.
Rights activists claimed that the referendum triggered anti-war protests in several cities in Belarus, detaining at least 290 people.
Massive protests broke out in 2020 following an election dispute that opposition alleged that Lukashenko had cheated. More than 35,000 people were arbitrarily detained for exercising their right to peaceful assembly freedom, including victims of abuse, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Said last year.
“Of the more than 530 people who thought Belarusian human rights activists were imprisoned for their political views and activities, three opposition candidates were still off limits,” the rights group said. rice field.
Jack Phillips and Reuters contributed to this report.