Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday that Moscow plans to deploy “tactical” nuclear weapons in Belarus, a Moscow ally that borders Ukraine and European Union (EU) countries. The Russian president has previously made thinly veiled threats to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, reigniting Cold War fears.

Putin also threatened to order the use of depleted uranium shells Ukraine if this country receives such weapons from the West, after a senior British official mentioned that possibility.

“There is nothing unusual here: The United States has been doing that for decades.: Deploy tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of its allies for a long time,” Putin said in an interview broadcast on Russian television.

“We have decided to do the same,” he added, assuring that he had the approval of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

Belarus borders Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, three EU and NATO countries.

Referring to the issue of depleted uranium grenades, Putin stressed that Russia has a significant arsenal of such weapons.

“Russia, of course, has something to respond with. We have, without exaggeration, tens of thousands of such shells. At the moment we have not used them,” he stated. British Deputy Defense Secretary Annabel Goldi said on Monday that her country plans to supply Ukraine with “depleted uranium” shells, which are “highly effective at destroying modern tanks and armored vehicles”.

The British anti-nuclear organization Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament warned that the next day its use would create an “additional environmental and health disaster for those at the center of the conflict” in Ukraine.

The use of depleted uranium ammunition poses toxic risks to the military and the population of the areas where it is used. They were used in the two Gulf Wars of 1991 and 2003, as well as in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

The Pentagon also acknowledged that it used depleted uranium grenades twice in 2015 in operations against the Islamic State terror organization in Syria.

fewer nuclear deals

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, warned of this last month the risk of using nuclear weapons was increased by the prolongation of the conflict in Ukraine, which began thirteen months ago.

Putin suspended Russia’s participation in the New START treaty on nuclear disarmament it signed with the United States in February, accusing Western countries of fomenting the conflict in Ukraine.

The Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Jens Stoltenberg, regretted that decision and recalled that it was the last bilateral agreement between Russia and the United States on nuclear disarmament.

“More nuclear weapons and less arms control make the world more dangerous,” he said.

Russia had already suspended inspections of its nuclear sites by the United States in August, as provided for in the New START treaty.