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Kazakhstan rejects offer to join a union with Russia

In an interview with Russia media, Belarusian President Alexandr Lukashenko has stated that if another country wanted to join a Russian-Belarusian union, there could be “nuclear weapons for everyone”. Russia and Belarus are formally part of a Union State, a borderless union and alliance between the two former Soviet republics. Under that alliance, Russia has started placing nuclear warheads on Belarusian territory.

Russia last week started implementing the plan to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, Lukashenko announced last week. The plan, the first deployment of such warheads outside Russia by the Kremlin since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, is provoking concern in the West.

In an interview broadcast on Russian state television yesterday, Lukashenko, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s staunchest allies, said it should be “strategically understood” that Minsk and Moscow have a unique opportunity to unite.

“Nobody is against Kazakhstan and other countries that have the same close relations we have with the Russian Federation,” Lukashenko echoed. “If anyone is concerned … then it is very simple: join the Union State of Belarus and Russia. That is all. There will be nuclear weapons for everyone.” He added that it was his own opinion, not Russia’s.

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, whose nation also has close historical ties with Moscow but has refused to recognise Russia’s annexation of parts of Ukraine, rejected Lukashenko’s invitation to join the union. “I appreciated his joke,” Tokayev’s office quoted him on Telegram, adding that Kazakhstan was already a member of a wider Russian-led trading bloc, the Eurasian Economic Union, meaning further integration was not necessary.