Belarus OKs Permanent Hosting of Russian Forces, Nuclear Weapons

As the results of the controversial referendum Belarus held on Sunday while the ex-Soviet country’s neighbor Ukraine is under attack from Russian troops, show, Belarusians voted to allow the country to permanently host nuclear weapons and Russian forces.

Part of the package of constitutional reforms that were put on the referendum also extended the rule of leader Alexander Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994.

The presidential term limits that were previously ditched by Lukashenko would now be reinstated with the amendments to two five-year terms but would only apply to the next elected president.

So, if Lukashenko decides to run for re-election in 2025, he could remain in power for an additional 10 years.

According to Belarus Central Election Commission head Igor Karpenko, 65.16% of referendum participants voted in favor of the amendments and 10.07% voted against, Russian news agencies reported.

The voter turnout stood at 78.63% and the amendments needed to receive at least 50% of the vote with a turnout of over half the electorate to come into force.

Lukashenko, who promised the referendum in August 2020 in the wake of historic protests against his disputed re-election, followed the footsteps of Russian President Vladimir Putin in amending the constitution with changes that also grant immunity to former leaders for crimes committed during their term in office.

Following the 2020 presidential vote which has sparked unprecedented demonstrations that were met with a brutal crackdown, Lukashenko claimed a sixth term. After the elections, he imprisoned leading opposition figures forcing his main rival Svetlana Tikhanovskaya to seek refuge in neighboring Lithuania.

In 2020, Putin has overseen the vote on constitutional changes that made it possible for him to remain in power until 2036.

Belarus is a key ally of Russia ever since the break-up of the USSR in 1991. According to the Nuclear Threat Initiative think tank, Belarus inherited a number of Soviet nuclear warheads following the USSR break-up which it then transferred to Russia.

Lukashenko allowed Russian troops last week to use Belarusian territory to invade Ukraine from the north after previously hosting them for the joint Belarus-Russia military exercises.

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