(Bloomberg) -- Russia will begin moving tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus next month, President Vladimir Putin told his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko on Friday.

Construction of storage facilities in Belarus will be completed by July 7-8, allowing the transfer of the weapons to begin, Putin said in televised comments at the meeting in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Putin announced in March that he’d deploy the weapons in Belarus for the first time, ramping up a confrontation with the US and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies that have sent Ukraine billions of dollars in arms to help it fight Russia’s invasion. 

Putin Says Russia to Place Tactical Nuclear Arms in Belarus

He insists the Kremlin is upholding its non-proliferation obligations by retaining control over the weapons, though Russia has trained Belarusian troops on the “storage and use of tactical special munitions” for Iskander short-range missiles as part of the initiative.

Russia has repeatedly suggested it may use nuclear weapons as its war in Ukraine has foundered, drawing criticism from the US and Europe, as well as countries including China and India that have generally been more supportive of Russia in the conflict.

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