Belarus agrees to permanently host nuclear weapons for Russian forces

Results showed that Belarus voted on Monday to allow the country to permanently host nuclear weapons and Russian forces, as part of a package of constitutional reforms that also extended the rule of leader Alexander Lukashenko.

The referendum was held on Sunday as the ex-Soviet neighbor Ukraine came under attack from Russian forces and delegations from Moscow and Kiev were expected to meet for talks on the Belarusian border.

Russian news agencies reported that Central Election Commission Chairman Igor Karpenko said 65.16% of referendum participants voted in favor of the amendments and 10.07% voted against them.

According to Karpenko, the participation rate was 78.63 percent.

For the amendments to take effect, it must receive at least 50 percent of the vote with more than half of the electorate participating.

Lukashenko, in power since 1994, has promised a referendum following historic protests against his disputed re-election in 2020.

By amending the constitution, Lukashenko, 67, is following in the footsteps of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who in 2020 oversaw constitutional changes that enabled him to remain in power until 2036.

The constitutional changes also grant former commanders immunity for crimes they committed during their tenure.

Russia is a major ally of Belarus, and last week Lukashenko allowed Russian forces to use Belarusian territory to invade Ukraine from the north.

Belarus inherited a number of Soviet nuclear warheads after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, according to the Nuclear Threat Initiative Research Center, which then transferred them to Russia.

Lukashenko first brought up potential changes after the August 2020 presidential vote sparked unprecedented demonstrations that were met with brutal crackdowns.

He demanded a sixth term in voting and imprisoned prominent opposition figures, while his main rival, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, had to take refuge in neighboring Lithuania.

The amendments would return presidential term limits — previously abandoned by Lukashenko — to two five-year terms, but would only apply to the next president-elect.

If Lukashenko presents himself as a candidate for re-election in 2025, he could remain in power for an additional ten years.

Lithuania’s Tikanovskaya office criticized the vote, saying the sweeping crackdown on any dissenting votes since the 2020 election has made any real discussion of the proposals impossible.


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