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Biden, Harris Honor War Dead for US Memorial Day Holiday

On Memorial Day, observed annually on the last Monday of May, Americans commemorate those who died while serving in the U.S. military. The day is also celebrated as the beginning of the summer season with family cookouts, a dip in the pool or a trip to the beach. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

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Why Do Kosovo-Serbia Tensions Persist?

Tensions between Serbia and Kosovo flared anew this weekend after Kosovo’s police raided Serb-dominated areas in the region’s north and seized local municipality buildings.

Violent clashes between Kosovo’s police and NATO-led peacekeepers on one side and local Serbs on the other have left several people injured on both sides.

The violence led Serbia to raise the combat readiness of its troops stationed near the border and warned it won’t stand by if Serbs in Kosovo are attacked again. The situation has again fueled fears of a renewal of the 1998-99 conflict in Kosovo that claimed more than 10,000 lives and left more than 1 million homeless.

Why are Serbia and Kosovo at odds?

Kosovo is a mainly ethnic Albanian-populated territory that was formerly a province of Serbia. It declared independence in 2008.

Serbia has refused to recognize Kosovo’s statehood and still considers it a part of Serbia, even though it has no formal control there.

Kosovo’s independence has been recognized by about 100 countries, including the United States, Russia and China, while five European Union nations have sided with Serbia.

The deadlock has kept tensions simmering and prevented full stabilization of the Balkan region after the bloody wars in the 1990s.

What’s the latest flare-up about?

After Serbs boycotted last month’s local elections held in northern Kosovo — where Serbs represent a majority — newly elected ethnic Albanian mayors needed the help of Kosovo’s riot police to move into their offices last Friday.

Serbs tried to prevent them from taking over the premises, but police fired tear gas to disperse them.

On Monday, Serbs staged a protest in front of the municipality buildings, triggering a tense standoff that resulted in fierce clashes between the Serbs and local police, along with Kosovo peacekeepers.

The election boycott followed a collective resignation in November by Serb officials from the area, including administrative staff, judges, and police officers.

How deep is the ethnic conflict in Kosovo?

The dispute over Kosovo is centuries old. Serbia cherishes the region as the heart of its statehood and religion.

Numerous medieval Serb Orthodox Christian monasteries are in Kosovo. Serb nationalists view a 1389 battle against Ottoman Turks there as a symbol of its national struggle.

Kosovo’s majority ethnic Albanians view Kosovo as their country and accuse Serbia of occupation and repression. Ethnic Albanian rebels launched a rebellion in 1998 to rid the country of Serbian rule.

Belgrade’s brutal response prompted a NATO intervention in 1999, which forced Serbia to pull out and cede control to international peacekeepers.

What is the situation locally?

There are constant tensions between the Kosovo government and the Serbs who live mainly in the north of the country and keep close ties with Belgrade.

Attempts by the central government to impose more control in the Serb-dominated north are usually met with resistance from Serbs.

Mitrovica, the main town in the north, has been effectively divided into an ethnic Albanian part and a Serb-held part, and the two sides rarely mix. There are also smaller Serb-populated enclaves in the south of Kosovo, while tens of thousands of Kosovo Serbs live in central Serbia, where they fled together with the withdrawing Serb troops in 1999.

Have there been attempts to resolve the dispute?

There have been constant international efforts to find common ground between the two former wartime foes, but there has been no final comprehensive agreement.

EU officials have mediated negotiations designed to normalize relations between Serbia and Kosovo. Numerous agreements have been reached during those negotiations, but they were rarely implemented on the ground. Some areas have seen results, such as introducing freedom of movement within the country.

An idea has been floated for border changes and land swaps as the way forward, but this was rejected by many EU countries out of fears that it could cause a chain reaction in other ethnically mixed areas in the Balkans and trigger more trouble in the region that went through bloody wars in the 1990s.

Who are the main players?

Both Kosovo and Serbia are led by nationalist leaders who haven’t shown readiness for a compromise.

In Kosovo, Albin Kurti, a former student protest leader and political prisoner in Serbia, leads the government and is the main negotiator in EU-mediated talks. He was also known as a fierce supporter of Kosovo’s unification with Albania and is against any compromise with Serbia.

Serbia is led by populist President Aleksandar Vucic, who was information minister during the war in Kosovo. The former ultranationalist insists that any solution must be a compromise in order to last and says Serbia won’t settle unless it gains something.

What happens next?

International officials are hoping to speed up negotiations and reach a solution in the coming months.

Both nations must normalize ties if they want to advance toward EU membership. No major breakthrough would mean prolonged instability, economic decline and constant potential for clashes.

Any Serbian military intervention in Kosovo would mean a clash with NATO peacekeepers stationed there. Belgrade controls Kosovo’s Serbs, and Kosovo can’t become a member of the U.N. and a functional state without resolving the dispute with Serbia.

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Солідарність з Україною вигідна для безпеки країн Заходу – президентка Словаччини

Президентка Словаччини Зузана Чапутова: «Наша єдність піддається випробуванню. Ті, хто стверджує, що наші заходи не працюють, або, що ми повинні зосередитися на власних інтересах, – помиляються»

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Голова Служби безпеки Чехії заявив про відверто агресивний характер дій РФ і пов’язані з цим ризики

У Службі безпеки Чехії не виключають, що російська сторона зберігає можливості стеження за допомогою телефонного зв’язку

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Варшава запровадила санкції проти 365 білорусів – МВС Польщі

Польща ввела санкції проти 365 громадян Білорусі через залишення в силі вироку щодо журналіста і активіста Спілки поляків Анджея Почобута і репресій проти політичних опонентів режиму Олександра Лукашенка, повідомило міністерство внутрішніх справ та адміністрації Польщі.

Під санкції потрапили, зокрема, 159 депутатів, 76 суддів, семеро прокурорів, 32 представники місцевої адміністрації, 28 силовиків, 23 представники пропагандистських ЗМІ, 24 спортсмени та спортивні активісти, вісім співробітників держустанов і стільки ж діячів культури і науки. Тим, хто підпадає під санкції, буде заборонено в’їзд до Шенгенської зони, а їхні активи будуть заморожені.

До списку санкцій також внесли 16 підприємців (15 росіян і один білорус), пов’язаних з російськими активами. Крім того, санкції запровадили проти 20 юридичних осіб (19 із них пов’язані з Росією, одна – з Білоруссю).

Відносини Лукашенка з владою Польщі різко зіпсувалися останніми роками – після масових протестів у серпні 2020 року, міграційної кризи на кордоні та повномасштабного вторгнення Росії в Україну.

У лютому 2023 року журналіста та активіста Спілки поляків Анджея Почобута засудили у Білорусі до восьми років колонії. За інформацією видання Rzeczpospolita, серед епізодів кримінальної справи проти активіста – «розмови про радянську агресію проти Польщі», стаття в Gazeta Wyborcza про розгін протестів у 2020 році та матеріал 2006 року про командира польського антикомуністичного підпілля у Гродненській області. У жовтні 2022 року КДБ Білорусі вніс Анджея Почобута до списку осіб, причетних до терористичної діяльності.

Переслідування зазнали й інші активісти Союзу поляків: Анжеліка Борис і троє її колег були заарештовані і звинувачені в «розпалюванні расової чи іншої соціальної ворожнечі». Пізніше обвинувачення їм посилили на підставі статті про «реабілітацію нацизму та виправдання геноциду білоруського народу». Влітку 2021 року кілька фігурантів справи щодо Союзу поляків були примусово вислані до Польщі, при цьому влада Білорусі заявила, що вони нібито виїхали добровільно.

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Poland Imposes Sanctions on 365 Belarusians Over ‘Draconian’ Verdict Against Journalist

Poland imposed sanctions Monday on 365 Belarusian citizens and froze the financial assets of 20 entities and 16 other people associated with the Russian capital in reaction to what it condemned as a “draconian” verdict against a journalist.

Under the sanctions announced by Poland’s interior ministry, the 365 Belarusians will be barred from entering the Schengen area, an area of visa-free travel in Europe. The group includes lawmakers, judges, prosecutors, members of state media, athletes and people working for state enterprises.

The move is the latest development amid a tense relationship between Poland, a member of NATO and the European Union, and Belarus, a country on its northeastern border that is allied with Russia and led by an authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko, who has held power since 1994.

“These people promoted the Belarusian regime and were also involved in legitimizing and supporting the repressive policy of the authorities in Minsk. They are also responsible for the politically motivated sentence against Andrzej Poczobut, issued on false charges,” the interior ministry said.

Belarus’ Supreme Court on Friday upheld an eight-year prison sentence against Poczobut, a prominent member of the country’s sizable Polish minority and a correspondent for a top newspaper in Poland.

The rulings against Poczobut, a 50-year-old reporter with Poland’s liberal Gazeta Wyborcza daily, is seen as part of the Belarusian government’s sweeping crackdown on opposition figures, human rights activists and independent reporters.

Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya called Poland’s move “an important gesture of solidarity with Andrzej Poczobut and all Belarusians who suffer at the hands of the regime.”

“All political prisoners must be released from prison without any conditions,” Tsikhanouskaya said. “It is also a message to all those who support the regime with their positions and actions. We hope that other countries will follow this example, and those responsible for political court verdicts will be held accountable for their actions.”

As Poland announced the sanctions, migrants were stuck at Poland’s border wall with Belarus. Polish human rights activists said that they heard from the migrants that the Belarusian forces would not let them turn back. Meanwhile, Polish authorities would not allow them in to request asylum.

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Russia Issues Arrest Warrant for US Senator Graham Over Ukraine Comments

Russia’s Interior Ministry issued an arrest warrant Monday for U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham following his comments related to the fighting in Ukraine.

In an edited video of his meeting Friday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that was released by Zelenskyy’s office, Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, noted that “the Russians are dying” and described the U.S. military assistance to the country as “the best money we’ve ever spent.”

While Graham appeared to have made the remarks in different parts of the conversation, the short video by Ukraine’s presidential office put them next to each other, causing outrage in Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov commented Sunday by saying that “it’s hard to imagine a greater shame for the country than having such senators.”

The Investigative Committee, the country’s top criminal investigation agency, has moved to open a criminal inquiry against Graham, and the Interior Ministry followed up by issuing a warrant for his arrest as indicated Monday by its official record of wanted criminal suspects.

Graham is among more than 200 U.S. members of Congress whom Moscow banned last year from entering Russia.

Graham commented on Twitter, saying that “to know that my commitment to Ukraine has drawn the ire of Putin’s regime brings me immense joy.”

“I will continue to stand with and for Ukraine’s freedom until every Russian soldier is expelled from Ukrainian territory,” he tweeted. “I will wear the arrest warrant issued by Putin’s corrupt and immoral government as a Badge of Honor.”

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«Хоче підірвати єдність»: Маляр пояснила, навіщо РФ поширює фейки про українську владу

«Повномасштабна війна показала цікаву властивість української колективної свідомості. Так, ми відчуваємо біль, розпач, сум, але водночас в нас немає страху»

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Обстріл Дніпропетровщини: збільшилась кількість поранених – влада

«Більшість постраждалих «швидкі» доправили до лікарень Запорізької області. Загинула 51-річна жінка»

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Ukrainian Teen Barely Escapes War-Torn Bakhmut Alive

Depending on who you ask, the city of Bakhmut or separate parts of it are during any given week either controlled by Russian troops or by the Ukrainian Army. But the reality is that the city is in ruins and has been a dangerous and even deadly place for civilians, including some children who stayed during the fighting. Omelyan Oshchudlyak has one 16-year-old’s story. VOA footage by Yuriy Dankevych.

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У Києві затримали двох чоловіків, які знімали роботу ППО – поліція

«Поліція Києва вкотре нагадує про заборону фото та відеофіксації роботи ППО! Зберігайте інформаційну тишу, адже мовчання – надійний тил наших захисників!»

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У Повітряних силах повідомили, чим РФ атакувала Київ вдень 29 травня

«Було застосовано озброєння, тобто ракети, які летять за балістичною траєкторією. Тобто прилітають досить швидко. Попередньо, це були «Іскандери»

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Путін підписав закон про денонсацію Росією Угоди про обмеження озброєнь у Європі

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Влада повідомила про падіння шести уламків у кількох районах Києва, одна людина поранена

Міський голова Києва Віталій Кличко повідомив про одного пораненого в Подільському районі столиці, його шпиталізували

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At Least Three People Dead in Boat Accident in Northern Italy

At least three people died and one person is missing after a 16-meter tourist boat capsized and sank on Lake Maggiore in northern Italy Sunday evening. 

Divers backed by a helicopter continued to search for the missing person. 

An air ambulance, several emergency vehicles, and firefighters, as well as the Coast Guard and the police were involved in the rescue and search.    

The National Fire and Rescue Service said 20 people managed to swim ashore or were rescued by other boats, and five of them were taken to area hospitals for medical attention.    

Rescue efforts, however, were slowed by heavy rain and darkness, authorities said. 

Italian media reported that the boat was carrying 24 people, including passengers and crew. The passengers were celebrating a birthday when a violent storm suddenly developed over the lake and strong winds overturned the boat. All the passengers ended up in the icy waters of Lake Maggiore.   

Unconfirmed reports in local media said that the passengers were British, Italian, and Israeli nationals. 

Lake Maggiore is located on the south side of the Alps on the border between Italy and Switzerland. It is a popular destination for tourists.  

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Kosovo Serbs Gather to Take Over Municipality Buildings in the North

Ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo on Monday tried to take over the local government buildings where Albanian mayors entered last week with the help of police. 

Kosovar police and NATO-led Kosovo Force were seen protecting the municipality building in Zvecan, one of the four communes to hold snap elections last month that were largely boycotted by ethnic Serbs. Only ethnic Albanian or other smaller-minority representatives were elected in the mayoral posts and assemblies. 

More than a dozen Serbs and five Kosovar police officers were injured in clashes last Friday, and Serbian troops on the border with Kosovo were put on high alert the same day. 

Ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo, who are a majority in that part of the country, tried to block recently elected ethnic Albanian officials from entering municipal buildings. Kosovo police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd and let the new officials into the offices. 

The United States and the European Union condemned Kosovo’s government for using police to forcibly enter the municipal buildings. 

On Sunday evening, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, plus the United States and the European Union in Kosovo, again issued a statement saying they strongly caution “all parties against other threats or actions which could impact on a safe and secure environment, including freedom of movement, and that could inflame tensions or promote conflict.” 

At a rally Friday evening in Belgrade with his supporters, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said “Serbia won’t sit idle the moment Serbs in northern Kosovo are attacked.” 

However, any attempt by Serbia to send its troops over the border would mean a clash with NATO troops stationed there. 

A 2013 Pristina-Belgrade agreement on forming the Serb association was later declared unconstitutional by Kosovo’s Constitutional Court, which said the plan wasn’t inclusive of other ethnicities and could entail the use of executive powers to impose laws. 

The two sides have tentatively agreed to back an EU plan on how to proceed, but tensions still simmer. 

The U.S. and the EU have stepped up efforts to help solve the Kosovo-Serbia dispute, fearing further instability in Europe as war rages in Ukraine. The EU has made it clear to both Serbia and Kosovo they must normalize relations to advance in their intentions to join the bloc. 

The conflict in Kosovo erupted in 1998 when separatist ethnic Albanians rebelled against Serbia’s rule, and Serbia responded with a brutal crackdown. About 13,000 people, mostly ethnic Albanians, died. NATO’s military intervention in 1999 eventually forced Serbia to pull out of the territory. Washington and most EU countries have recognized Kosovo as an independent state, but Serbia, Russia and China have not. 

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Migrants With Children Stuck at Poland’s Border Wall; Activists Say Belarus Won’t Let Them Turn Back

A group of some 30 migrants seeking asylum, including small children, has been stuck at Poland’s border wall with Belarus for three days, Polish human rights activists said Sunday. 

Although the migrants were outside Poland’s border wall, activists from Grupa Granica (Border Group) said they were on Polish territory and Belarus was not allowing them to turn back. 

“In Belarus, they are not safe,” activist Marta Staniszewska said. 

“The Belarusian services, as this group has told us, threaten them that if they return, they will be beaten, or that they will kill them,” Staniszewska told The Associated Press. 

The migrants say that several among them are sick, one girl has a toothache, and the children have mosquito bites, according to Staniszewska. 

A representative of Poland’s ombudsman’s office visited and talked to the group on Sunday, but later told reporters that the decision about whether to allow them into the country belongs to the Polish Border Guard. 

“If these persons are indeed within the jurisdiction of the (Polish) Border Guard and declare their willingness to apply for international protection, then …. such applications should be accepted,” Maciej Grzeskowiak said. 

Last year, Poland put up almost 190 kilometers of tall metal wall intended to stop thousands of migrants from Asia and Africa entering the country from Belarus. 

The European Union has accused authoritarian Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of aiding illegal border crossings in retaliation for EU sanctions. Lukashenko denies encouraging migration to Europe. 

Poland’s most powerful politician, the head of Poland’s right-wing ruling party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, said recently that building the wall was a good decision. He said it was protecting Poland and the EU against hostile moves by Belarus and Russia. 

Despite the wall, up to 150 migrants of various nationalities, often with Russian visas in their documents, try to cross illegally into Poland each day, according to the Border Guard. 

On some occasions, such groups threw stones and sticks from behind the wall at the border guards, but then apparently moved away. It is not possible from Poland’s side to determine what happens to the groups. 

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US Leaders Urge Lawmakers to Approve Debt Ceiling Deal

U.S. lawmakers are examining the details of an agreement to increase the country’s borrowing limit ahead of votes expected in the coming days, as both President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy urge them to approve it. 

The proposal includes waiving the debt ceiling until January 2025 and a two-year budget deal that keeps federal spending flat in 2024 and increases it by 1% in 2025. 

Among the other pieces of the compromise package are reducing some funding to hire new Internal Revenue Service agents, rescinding $30 billion in COVID-19 relief and ensuring people ages 49 to 54 meet work requirements in order to receive food aid. 

Biden and McCarthy reached the agreement Sunday after weeks of negotiations with an early June deadline looming for the government running out of money to pay its bills. 

“The agreement prevents the worst possible crisis, a default, for the first time in our nation’s history,” Biden said at the White House. It “takes the threat of a catastrophic default off the table.”  

McCarthy, discussing the agreement at the Capitol, said, “At the end of the day, people can look together to be able to pass this.”  

SEE ALSO: A related video by VOA’s Veronica Balderas Iglesias

While the two leaders expressed support for the deal, progressive Democratic lawmakers from the party’s ideological left, and Republicans from the party’s right-wing immediately voiced opposition Sunday.      

“The agreement represents a compromise, which means not everyone gets what they want. But that’s the responsibility of governing,” Biden said in a statement. He called the pact “an important step forward that reduces spending while protecting critical programs for working people and growing the economy for everyone.”      

Earlier Sunday, McCarthy, on the “Fox News Sunday” show, said that from Republicans’ perspective, “There’s so much in this that is positive. It will not do everything for everyone, but this is a step in the right direction.”       

The debt ceiling needs to be increased so the government can borrow more money, or the U.S. government will run out of cash to pay its existing bills June 5, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned Congress.     

Yellen has said that without an increase in the debt ceiling or a suspension of the borrowing limit, interest on U.S. bonds held by foreign governments and individual American investors would be imperiled, as well as stipends for U.S. pensioners and salaries for government workers and contractors. Without enough tax receipts coming into U.S. coffers to pay its bills, the government would be forced to prioritize which payments to make.    

Another part of the agreement would also speed up the approval process for new energy projects.     

The pact also left in place Biden’s plan to write off up to $20,000 in student loan debts but says that loan recipients will have to start making loan payments that had been paused during the coronavirus pandemic. The provision would become moot if the Supreme Court overturns Biden’s authority to revoke the debt in a challenge to his action that it is expected to rule on by the end of June.    

Democratic Representative Pramila Jayapal, the leader of the 102-member House progressive caucus, told CNN’s “State of the Union” show that Biden and Jeffries should worry about progressives’ support for passage of the debt ceiling increase.     

Jayapal criticized expanding work requirements for food stamp recipients and said she did not know whether she would vote for the debt ceiling increase.    

“I’m not a big fan of in-principle (agreements) frameworks,” she told CNN’s “State of the Union” show. “That’s always, you know, a problem if you can’t see the exact legislative text. And we’re all trying to wade through spin right now. But I think it’s going to come down to what the legislative text is.”   

Among Republicans, Representative Bob Good wrote on Twitter, “No one claiming to be a conservative could justify a YES vote” on the package.    

Another Republican critic of the deal, Representative Ralph Norman, tweeted, “This ‘deal’ is insanity.” He said a possible $4 trillion increase in the debt over the next two years “with virtually no cuts is not what we agreed to. Not gonna vote to bankrupt our country. The American people deserve better.” 

Some information for this story came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters. 

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Атака на Київ: сили ППО знищили понад 40 ракет і дронів – КМВА

«Одночасно із атакою БпЛА, з району Каспію ворожі ТУ-95МС здійснили пуски крилатих ракет, ймовірно Х-101/555»

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Belarus Official: West Left Us No Choice but to Deploy Nuclear Arms

Western countries left Belarus no choice but to deploy Russian tactical nuclear weapons and had better take heed not to “cross red lines” on key strategic issues, a senior Belarusian official was quoted as saying on Sunday. 

Alexander Volfovich, state secretary of Belarus’ Security Council, said it was logical that the weapons were withdrawn after the 1991 Soviet collapse as the United States had provided security guarantees and imposed no sanctions. 

“Today, everything has been torn down. All the promises made are gone forever,” the Belta news agency quoted Volfovich as telling an interviewer on state television. 

Belarus, led by President Alexander Lukashenko since 1994, is Russia’s staunchest ally among ex-Soviet states and allowed its territory to be used to launch the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. 

Russia moved ahead last week with a decision to deploy tactical nuclear weapons on Belarusian territory aimed at achieving specific gains on the battlefield. 

Russia says its “special military operation” in Ukraine was aimed at countering what it says is a drive by the “collective west” to wage a proxy war and inflict a defeat on Moscow. 

“The deployment of tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus is therefore one of the steps of strategic deterrence. If there remains any reason in the heads of Western politicians, of course, they will not cross this red line,” Volfovich said. 

He said any resort to using “even tactical nuclear weapons will lead to irreversible consequences.” 

Lukashenko last week said the weapons were already on the move, but it is not yet clear when they will be in place. 

The United States has denounced the prospective deployment of nuclear weapons in Belarus but says its stance on the use of such weapons has not been altered. 

Western sanctions were imposed on Belarus long before the invasion in connection with Lukashenko’s clampdown on human rights, particularly the repression of mass protests against what his opponents said was his rigged re-election in 2020. 

After independence from Soviet rule, Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan agreed to their weapons being removed and returned to Russia as part of international efforts to contain proliferation.