EXCLUSIVE: Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus's President, is now personally and politically indebted to his Russian opposite number, said Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.

Lukashenko to take Skabeyeva to the nuclear weapons storage

"will not hesitate" to throw Belarusian troops into battle against Ukraine when he decides the time is right, an exiled opposition leader has warned.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya was speaking after both Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko confirmed that tactical nuclear weapons were now stationed in at bases in the country, which is closely aligned to Russia.

Speaking at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), Putin said the decision was aimed at sending a signal to the West.

He denied any intention to launch attacks - but days earlier, political scientist Sergei Karaganov, a close Kremlin ally, described nuclear weapons as a “gift from God” and called for the lowering of what he called “the unacceptably high threshold" for their use.

Ms Tsikhanouskaya currently lives in Lithuania after fleeing Belarus following the 2020 Presidential election amid evidence of widespread voter fraud in Mr Lukashenko’s favour.

READ MORE: Big European cities within range of Putin’s nuclear arsenal in Belarus


Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko in Sochi (Image: Getty)

She told Express.co.uk: “After the loss of elections in 2020, Lukashenka received help from Russia to keep power. That saved him, but now he is fully - personally and politically - indebted to Putin.

“He must pay back but at the cost of Belarusian independence and sovereignty.”

In effect, the 68-year-old had turned her country into a “client state of the Kremlin”, she pointed out.

Ms Tsikhanouskaya, who is President of the Coordination Council of Belarus explained: “This means that he has given up control for whole segments of governance - foreign policy, defence, national security, information policy, finance etc.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya is Belarus's exiled opposition leader (Image: GETTY)

"For decades he has helped to expand the Russian world concept on our country but now this assault on our national identity has reached a new level of aggressiveness.

“The only policy where he has autonomy from Moscow is repression.”

As such, the former Soviet Army officer’s hands were tied, Ms Tsikhanouskaya said, despite his fiery rhetoric.

She added: “Lukashenko wishes he could attack Ukraine but he is afraid of the implications leading to internal protests, since Belarusians are so overwhelmingly against the participation of our troops in the fight against Ukrainians.

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President Putin Of Russia Delivers a Speech At SPIEF 2023 International Economic Forum

Vladimir Putin speaking at SPIEF (Image: Getty)

“This has stopped this order at the beginning of the war, but we cannot rule this perspective out altogether.

“Lukashenka has fulfilled every order of Putin until now and when Russia decides that this is the right moment to throw Belarusian troops into the battle, it will not hesitate to do so.

“After all, Belarus is a strategic reserve of Russia, and they will want to use it for their own interests.”

Speaking at SPIEF on Friday, Putin said: “Nuclear weapons are created to ensure our security in the broadest sense of the word and the existence of the Russian state. But we, firstly, do not have such a need.

Eurasian Economic Union Leaders' Summit in Moscow

Alexander Lukashenko arrives for the Eurasian Economic Union Leaders' Summit in Moscow (Image: Getty)


    However, he added: “Extreme means may be used if there is a threat to Russia’s statehood.

    “In this case, we will certainly use all the forces and means that the Russian state has at its disposal.”

    Putin also rejected the possibility of reducing Russia's nuclear arsenal, saying: “We have more such weapons than the NATO countries.

    “They know about it, and all the time we are being persuaded to start negotiations on reductions. The hell with them, you know, as our people say.”