When Putin launched his large-scale invasion, Belarus served as an important stepping stone for the operation. Russian troops, whose leaders had insisted loudly for weeks that they were only deployed in the country to conduct the exercises, streamed across the border towards the capital, Kyiv, from the north.
In recent weeks, as Russia faced a series of critical setbacks on the battlefields in southern and eastern Ukraine, observers have expressed concern that Lukashenko may be preparing his army to join the fight.
“You say that he did not win this war, but you are not,” said Lukashenko. 50 countries are now practically at war with Russia on the territory of Ukraine. There is no victory on your side either. Therefore, we need to find ways out of this situation.”
When asked about speculation that he was preparing to send troops to Ukraine, the Belarusian president again took a cautious stance: highlighting Belarus’ nonmilitary support, but insisting he would keep his soldiers out.
We support Russia in every possible way. Our support lies in the fact that our western borders with Poland and Lithuania have not been breached, so Russian forces have not been stabbed in the back through Belarus. That’s how it was from the start.”
Lukashenko acknowledged that Belarusian support for the war had expanded since February, but reiterated that it was still a limited player in the process. Belarus takes care of Russia’s wounded and takes care of Ukrainian refugees.
He said, “It’s our turn, but we don’t kill anyone there, and we don’t plan to kill anyone there. Nobody is asking us to do that.”
The Kremlin has raised growing nuclear concerns with its military withdrawal on the battlefield and growing anxiety at home. But the Belarusian leader instead indicated that the nuclear tension was politically motivated by the West and Ukraine, and that Russia had no interest in escalating the conflict to the level of a nuclear exchange.
“This will be the end of our planet,” Lukashenko said.
If nuclear weapons are used even by one country, it will cause a chain reaction. Russia understands this well. And no one, I want to emphasize this, I know for sure from President Putin himself, no one has set a goal for the use of nuclear weapons. ”
Instead, Lukashenko said, “We need to look for ways to find a peaceful solution to this conflict. It will be beneficial to everyone, including the United States.”
Lukashenko’s relationship with Putin has gone through many stages over the years.
At times, he played a messenger, sent signals to the West or cemented Putin’s standing in the high-stakes brinkmanship games with the United States and Europe.
Speaking about my personal relationship with President Putin, Lukashenko said, “it was not always cloudless.” “We argued, sometimes quarreled, but we were always close friends and reliable partners.”
Putin is largely seen as saving the Lukashenko regime from unprecedented protests in 2020 after he retained power after a widely discredited election.
“No one has the same level of relations as those between the presidents of Belarus and Russia,” he said. Recently, our relationship has not only intensified and strengthened, but we have absolute trust in each other. That’s why we have practically no problems.”
Kerr Simmons reported from Astana, and Matt Bodner reported from London.
Natasha Lebedeva And the Carlo Ungerer Contributed.
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