Minsk Tells Of Missile Proposal

MINSK -- Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko, in an interview published Friday, said Russia had suggested deploying missiles in his country to counter a proposed U.S. missile system in nearby countries.

Lukashenko told The Wall Street Journal that even if Moscow failed to proceed with its proposal to deploy Iskander missiles, Belarus would consider buying them for its own use.

He also supported a Kremlin proposal to place the missiles in Russia's Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad.

"Even if Russia does not offer these promising missiles, we will purchase them ourselves," he said. "Right now, we do not have the funds, but it is part of our plans -- I am giving away a secret here -- to have such weapons."

Belarus gave up its Soviet-era nuclear weapons in the 1990s after the Soviet collapse and has previously suggested that it is prepared to deploy Russian non-nuclear weaponry if the Kremlin requested it. But no mention has been made of the Iskander missiles.

President Dmitry Medvedev, interviewed by the Paris daily Le Figaro earlier in the week, said Moscow was ready to drop plans to deploy the missiles in Kaliningrad if Washington abandoned its proposed missile-defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Lukashenko has been accused by Western countries of crushing fundamental human rights since the mid-1990s but has sought improved relations with the West for more than a year.