Belarus nuclear referendum 'greatly worrying', EU's Borrell says

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High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell speaks during a news conference with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, after Russia launched a massive military operation against Ukraine, in Brussels, Belgium, February 27, 2022. Stephanie Lecocq/Pool via REUTERS

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PARIS, Feb 28 (Reuters) - The referendum vote in Belarus to ditch its non-nuclear status was a "greatly worrying" move orchestrated by the country's strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Monday.

The vote to change the constitution, passed by 65% according to official data, could see nuclear weapons on Belarusian soil for the first time since the country gave them up after the fall of the Soviet Union. read more

It comes at a time when Lukashenko has fallen in line behind Russian President Vladimir Putin's military assault on Ukraine after earlier playing an intermediary role between the two neighbours.

"Yesterday's constitutional referendum in Belarus was orchestrated by Lukashenko to gain additional tools to further consolidate his power," Borrell tweeted. "The deletion of Article 18 on Belarus' non-nuclear status is greatly worrying."

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Reporting by Tassilo Hummel; Editing by John Chalmers

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