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Russian Official Downplays Belarus Nukes Talk

Konstantin Kosachyov said in theory there was nothing to prevent Russia deploying nuclear weapons abroad (file) (RFE/RL) August 28, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- The head of the State Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee has said Russia currently has no plans to deploy nuclear weapons beyond its territory, characterizing suggestions that Belarus could host nuclear-related weaponry as "theoretical."

Konstantin Kosachyov was responding to reports that a Russian official had said Moscow might consider deploying "objects relating to nuclear weapons" in Belarus in response to U.S. plans to install parts of an antimissile shield in Central Europe. That official, Russian Ambassador to Belarus Aleksandr Surikov, has since said his comments were "misinterpreted."

In an interview with RFE/RL's Belarus Service today, Kosachyov shrugged off Surikov's reported comment, but also noted that there was nothing to legally prevent Russia from deploying nuclear weapons abroad.

"When it comes to Russia's nuclear weapons, their deployment beyond the country's territory, on the basis of mutual agreement between sides, does not contravene international obligations of Russia and the other country the enters such an agreement," he said. "But I want to underline again that now I am commenting on the purely theoretical, legal side of this question."

Surikov's suggestion was made in passing during a recent interview in which he discussed energy and economic cooperation between Russia and Belarus.

Interfax this week quoted him as saying that the possibility that Russia would consider deploying equipment in Belarus depended "on the level of our political integration [with Belarus], as well as points of view of experts, diplomats, and the military."

The comments attracted significant media attention and speculation.

Issue 'Hasn't Come Up'

In comments made to RFE/RL today, Belarusian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Vanshyna said the issue of deploying Russian nuclear facilities in Belarus had not been discussed.

"We have a high level of integration [with Russia] in many spheres, including the military. There are Russian military objects on the territory of Belarus," Vanshyna said. "As for deployment of objects related to nuclear weapons, this question has not come up yet. Life will show if this discussion will take place."

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Belarus, along with Ukraine and Kazakhstan, agreed to destroy all strategic nuclear warheads that were located on its territory, or turn them over to Russia. Belarus became a non-nuclear weapons state in November 1996.

(RFE/RL's Belarus Service/Central Newsroom-Asatiani)

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