Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has called on members of a Russian-led military alliance to unite, as he accused the West of prolonging the conflict in Ukraine to weaken Moscow.
Speaking at a summit of the leaders of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) in Moscow, Lukashenko said “hellish sanctions” against his country and Russia could have been avoided if the group had spoken with one voice.
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“Without a united front, the collective West will build up pressure on the post-Soviet space,” Lukashenko said, addressing President Putin and the leaders of Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
Sanctions imposed on Belarus have blocked $16-$18bn worth of its annual exports to the West, the Belta state news agency cited Belarusian Prime Minister Roman Golovchenko as saying late on Sunday.
“Because of the sanctions, almost all of Belarus’s exports to the countries of the European Union and North America have been blocked,” Golovchenko said, according to a transcript of an interview with the Dubai-based Al Arabiya television published by Belta.
‘At war with Russia’
Lukashenko had previously insisted that Minsk must be involved in negotiations to resolve the conflict in Ukraine, adding that his country had been unfairly labelled “an accomplice of the aggressor”.
The 67-year-old leader, who has ruled Belarus with an iron fist since 1994, had also accused the West of supporting Nazi ideas and of being “at war with Russia” in Ukraine.
“Followers of the Nazis are obsessed with the idea of revenge, but they are not ready to fight openly against the heirs of the Soviet people,” Lukashenko said at a speech on Victory Day, an annual holiday in Russia and other ex-Soviet countries to mark the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945.
“That’s why they are flooding Ukraine with weapons, waging war on memorials, symbols and veterans,” he said.
When Russia sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, Moscow’s army entered from Belarus, as well as from its own territory and from annexed Crimea.
Lukashenko has argued that Belarus was not the aggressor but an ally and a strategic partner of Russia.
“Nobody abroad cares that the Belarusian army is not involved in the fighting,” he said, adding that these “attempts to suffocate” Belarus “will only make it stronger”.