Belarus President and Putin ally Alexander Lukashenko revealed Thursday that he didn’t expect Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to “drag on this way.”
Lukashenko, in an interview with The Associated Press, also claimed he was doing “everything” to stop the war, despite Moscow using Belarus as a springboard for the conflict that began on Feb. 24 and is now in its 71st day.
“I am not immersed in this problem enough to say whether it goes according to plan, like the Russians say, or like I feel it. I want to stress one more time, I feel like this operation has dragged on,” Lukashenko said.
“We categorically do not accept any war. We have done and are doing everything now so that there isn’t a war. Thanks to yours truly, me that is, negotiations between Ukraine and Russia have begun,” he continued.
“But why is Ukraine, on whose territory a war in effect is ongoing, military action, people are dying – why is Ukraine not interested in these negotiations?” Lukashenko asked.
Lukashenko said it would be “unacceptable” to use nuclear weapons, but he couldn’t say if Russia has such plans.
“Not only is the use of nuclear weapons unacceptable because it’s right next to us – we are not across the ocean like the United States. It is also unacceptable because it might knock our terrestrial ball flying off the orbit to who knows where,” Lukashenko told The Associated Press. “Whether or not Russia is capable of that – is a question you need to ask the Russian leadership.”
Russia deployed forces to Belarusian territory under the pretext of military drills and then sent them rolling into Ukraine as part of the invasion.
Lukashenko publicly supported the operation, alleging at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in early March that Ukraine planned to attack Belarus and that Moscow’s offensive prevented that. He said he brought a map to show Putin from where the alleged attack was supposed to take place, but offered no other evidence to back the claim.
On Wednesday, the Belarusian military announced snap drills that prompted Ukraine to say it was “ready” for any involvement of their troops in the war. However, Lukashenko assured Thursday that the drills didn’t threaten anyone.
“We do not threaten anyone and we are not going to threaten and will not do it. Moreover, we can’t threaten – we know who opposes us, so to unleash some kind of a conflict, some kind of war here in the West is absolutely not in the interests of the Belarusian state. So the West can sleep peacefully.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.