(Kyiv) Ukraine called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on Sunday to counter Russia’s “nuclear blackmail” after Vladimir Putin announced that Moscow would deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus.

The European Union has threatened Minsk with further sanctions if the deployment goes through, while the United States has said it has “no indication” that Moscow intends to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

Belarus, an ally of Moscow, borders Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania.

“Ukraine expects effective actions to counter the Kremlin’s nuclear blackmail from the UK, China, the US and France” as permanent members of the UN Security Council, the Ukrainian foreign ministry said in a statement.

“We demand that an extraordinary meeting of the United Nations Security Council be convened immediately for this purpose,” he added, also calling on the G7 and the EU to put pressure on Belarus by threatening it with “consequences considerable” if he were to accept the Russian deployment.

The first Western country to react to Vladimir Putin’s announcement, Germany denounced a “new attempt at nuclear intimidation” by Moscow.

“We are not going to let ourselves be diverted from our course” by these threats, an official from the German Foreign Ministry told AFP on condition of anonymity.

NATO slammed “dangerous and irresponsible nuclear rhetoric”, saying it was “monitoring the situation closely”. And the head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell denounced an “irresponsible escalation and a threat to European security”, warning that the EU was “ready” to adopt new sanctions against Minsk.

US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby asserted that nothing at this stage would cause the United States “to change (their) position on strategic deterrence”.

Earlier Sunday, Ukrainian Security Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov said that “the Kremlin has taken Belarus as a nuclear hostage” and that the Russian intention represented a “step towards the internal destabilization of the country”, directed since 1994 by Alexander Lukashenko.

Vladimir Putin announced on Saturday that Russia will deploy “tactical” nuclear weapons in Belarus and that ten planes have already been equipped to be ready to use this kind of weaponry.

“There is nothing unusual here: the United States has been doing this for decades. They have long been deploying their tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of their allies,” Putin said in an interview with Russian television.

“We agreed to do the same,” he added, saying he planned to “train the crews” from April 3 and “complete the construction of a special warehouse for tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus” on July 1.

The United States stores nuclear weapons at bases in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey. “Tactical” nuclear weapons are less powerful than “strategic” ones, but their effects are still deadly and unpredictable.

Mr. Putin “admits that he is afraid of losing (the war) and that all he can do is scare,” Mykhaylo Podoliak, a Ukrainian presidential adviser, tweeted on Sunday. He also accused the Russian leader of “violating the nuclear non-proliferation treaty”.

Mr. Putin assured that this deployment in Belarus would be done “without contravening our international agreements on nuclear non-proliferation”.

If Belarus is not directly involved in the conflict in Ukraine, Moscow has used its territory to lead its offensive on Kyiv in 2022 or to carry out strikes, according to the Ukrainian authorities.

Vladimir Putin motivated his decision on Saturday by the United Kingdom’s desire to send depleted uranium munitions to Ukraine, as recently mentioned by a British official.

Mr. Putin threatened to also use this type of shell, used to pierce armor, if Kyiv were to receive it. He called this type of weapon shell among “the most dangerous” and which “generates what is called radiation dust”.

Several Russian officials, including former President Dmitry Medvedev, have however threatened Ukraine and Westerners with nuclear weapons since the start of the Russian offensive launched on February 24, 2022.

Russian nuclear doctrine does not provide for the preventive use by Russia of nuclear weapons, but only in response to an attack on it or its allies, or in the event of a “threat to the very existence of the state”.