The Kremlin’s plans to station tactical atomic weapons in Belarus demonstrates that Russia is taking its ally as a “nuclear hostage,” Ukraine’s top security official said Sunday.

But Moscow said it was making the move in response to the West’s increasing military support for Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin, announcing the plan on state TV, cited a British decision last week to provide Ukraine with armor-piercing rounds containing depleted uranium. The rounds are not considered nuclear weapons.

Putin said he was doing in Belarus what the U.S. has done for decades in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey. And he pressed his recurring theme that the West was responsible for Russia’s audacious invasion of its neighbor.

“They pretend they had nothing to do with it. They are the initiators of this conflict,” he said. “And today they are handing over millions more munitions, hardware and so on.”

Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, tweeted Sunday that Putin’s announcement was “a step toward internal destabilization” and that Putin “took Belarus as a nuclear hostage.”

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►Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told graduates of the Institute of the Navy their nation needs “a victory over the enemy at sea as well as on land and in the sky.”

►Hungary supports a cease-fire in Ukraine but does not expect Russia to keep the territories it occupies, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said: “Stopping the war and sitting around the table does not mean that you accept the status quo.”

A Ukrainian serviceman gets into a T-72 tank on the front lines near Bakhmut on March 26, 2023.

A Ukrainian serviceman gets into a T-72 tank on the front lines near Bakhmut on March 26, 2023.

Russian advertising campaign seeks military volunteers

The Kremlin is intensifying effort to seek volunteers to replenish its troops by advertising cash bonuses and other benefits. Recruiters are making cold calls to eligible men. Enlistment offices are working with universities and social service agencies to lure students and the unemployed.

Both sides anticipate counteroffensives that could mean heavy losses. A mobilization in September of 300,000 reservists sent men scrambling to the borders because most men under 65 are formally part of the reserve.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ukraine live updates: Russia plans to move nuclear weapons to Belarus