Russian President Vladimir Putin is not pushing Belarus into joining the war in Ukraine, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said, but he warned that Minsk would respond to external aggression including the use of Russia’s nuclear weapons deployed in his country.
In an online interview published on Thursday, Lukashenko said that he believed Putin had already achieved his goals in Ukraine, and that Kyiv and Moscow should sit down to negotiations and be ready to discuss all the issues, including the future of Crimea and other Ukrainian territories Russia claims.
Keep readinglist of 4 items
“Its [Russia’s] goals have already been fulfilled to date. Ukraine will never behave so aggressively towards Russia after the end of this war, as it did before the war,” Lukashenko said in the interview.
“Negotiations should begin without preconditions. This is a classic of any diplomacy. I think so. We need to sit down at the negotiating table and discuss everything. And Crimea, and Kherson, Zaporizhia, Donetsk and Luhansk. Everything there needs to be discussed,” he said.
Lukashenko, one of Putin’s closest allies, whose country borders Ukraine, Russia and three NATO countries including Poland, said the Russian leader had no reason to involve Belarus directly in the conflict.
“To involve Belarus … What will that give? Nothing,” he said.
“If you Ukrainians do not cross our border, we will never participate in this war. In this hot war. But we will always help Russia – they are our allies,” he said in the interview with Diana Panchenko, a pro-Russian Ukrainian journalist.
There were direct contacts between Kyiv and Minsk, but Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had put a halt to it, Lukashenko also said.
According to Lukashenko, the topics discussed included potential Belarus involvement in the war on Russia’s side, potential use of nuclear weapons and Wagner Group mercenaries, now stationed in Belarus.
“These questions accumulated. But we had these contacts, [and] we talked. We don’t mind. And there are still proposals to continue this dialogue,” he said.
Lukashenko warned that he would use “everything we have” if faced with aggression from nearby NATO members.
“There can be only one threat – aggression against our country. If aggression against our country starts from Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, we will respond instantly with everything we have,” he said.
“Against Ukraine, if it commits aggression against us – not only nuclear weapons will be used. We have something besides nuclear weapons. And we will not warn you that if you cross the red lines, we will strike at the decision-making centres. This will be done without warning,” he said.