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16 February 2023, 11:48

Lukashenko on peace prospects in Ukraine

MINSK, 16 February (BelTA) – Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko spoke about those who do not want peace in Ukraine and also named the reasons for Belarus to use its army as he met with foreign and Belarusian journalists in Minsk on 16 February, BelTA has learned.

“The response to the aggression against Belarus will be the toughest”

“I am ready to fight together with the Russians from the territory of Belarus only in one case: if at least one soldier sets foot in Belarus to kill my people. If they commit aggression against Belarus, the answer will be immediate. The war will acquire a completely different scale then,” the Belarusian leader said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko added that this pertained not only to Ukraine but also to other neighbors of Belarus.

Answering the question from the BBC journalist, he recalled that even before Russia started its special military operation, Ukraine was preparing to use its multiple rocket launchers against Belarus. “Ukraine was doing it deliberately. I do not know why they needed it. They came under fire from the territory of Belarus in the first minutes. It was in the morning, a few minutes before the start of the special military operation,” he said.

The president said that back in 2020, Ukraine was actually the first to impose sanctions against Belarus, even before the Western countries did it. “It was not the United States, not the Anglo-Saxons, not Western Europe. Unfortunately, it was our kin nation of Ukraine. It closed the airspace, launched provocations, trained fighters,” the head of state said.

He also recalled statements by Western politicians that the Minsk agreements were used as an opportunity to prepare the Ukrainian army for war.

"You call it 'an invasion'. I think otherwise. It's not an invasion. The Ukrainian authorities provoked this operation. By actions like that. I just named a few of them. Had they reached an agreement with Russia there would have been no war. But everything was tailored, starting with the Minsk agreements, to unleash a war,” the Belarusian leader stated. “There was no invasion. I believe this is the protection of the interests of Russia and those people, Russian people, who live there."

Aleksandr Lukashenko also recalled the actions of the Ukrainian authorities in Donbass and the country as a whole, including the oppression of Russians and Russian speakers, the Odessa tragedy. These events in Donbass did not begin with Putin or Russia. They began as an internal turmoil in Ukraine itself. The trigger was the Maidan and the flight/departure of Yanukovych to Donbass at that time. He wanted to restore order in Ukraine from Donbass. That's where it all started. What does Putin have to do with it, what does Russia have to do with it?”

When asked whether the special military operation was worth it, Aleksandr Lukashenko said: "It was, as you were stepping up hostilities in Ukraine and were preparing for war. I have the same question for you: was the war worth it or would it be better to give Russia security guarantees which it requested from you on paper?

What did this document cost you?... Nothing. For you, the West, the United States, it was nothing. Back then Russia and Putin demanded that you give them a written document of security guarantees that no aggression against Russia would be committed from Ukraine or Europe, which is nearby. For Russia to be convinced of this, you had to pledge that you would never bring nuclear weapons or long-range missiles into Ukraine. Hence my question: why didn't you give Russia a piece of paper? You didn't because you needed a war."

The president is sure that Ukraine was only a pretext for the war that the West was pushing. Moreover, there is interest in the dismemberment of Ukraine. "I am referring to your attempts to wrest the western parts out of Ukraine by the hands of Poland. Well, the fight is going to be epic. And then you will not be asking me whether we will attack it from the territory of Belarus or not. You accuse Russia of wanting to tear off a piece of Ukraine. But it is you who want to dismember Ukraine by the hands of Poland. Those will be monumental events. Masks will be flying off," he said.

“If you want peace, let's start talking about peace. And guns will go silent”

The head of state called for peace talks: "If you want peace in Ukraine, let's start talking about peace as early as tomorrow. And the guns will go silent. But you [the West] don't want that. But things may come to the point when the military will come to Kiev and twist the politicians' necks, Zelensky's too. The Ukrainian military will come to Kiev and put everyone into their places. Because they are in the meat grinder, while the Ukrainian authorities are touring around Europe asking for weapons, fighter jets and so on to standing ovations. You are escalating this conflict today. People are dying. Let's stop that. Everything is in place for this. No. You don't want that. Europe is ready for this because it knows what it can lead to. The United States does not want that. They've bent Europe over and are making it do it whatever they want."

Returning to the question of whether "aggression" on the part of Belarus is possible, Aleksandr Lukashenko once again repeated: "We are a peaceful nation. We know what war is. We don't want war. We are in no way going to send our troops to Ukraine. Unless you commit aggression on Belarus from there. Here's my answer. It was given a long time ago."

“I must ensure the security of the country”

The president also recalled that Russia is an ally of Belarus. The countries have a joint group of forces. Even so, Russia has never asked Belarus to start a war against Ukraine. "Russia has never asked me to start the operation against Ukraine together. Russia understands perfectly well that I have problems near Brest, Grodno and to the north with Lithuania.”

The job of Belarus is to provide security in the western direction. "The West wants us to go in there. Not just there. Preferably also to Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. But we're only going to do that in one case. So far, I don't see any other reason. I have the most important task: I must ensure the security of the country, primarily in the western direction," the president said. He recalled that he made relevant statements in the first days of Russia's special military operation.

Aleksandr Lukashenko voiced intelligence data that the West wants to draw Belarus into the war and is literally dreaming of it. Given the length of the borders of Belarus, this would further stretch the front by 2,500 kilometers, which would complicate the situation for the troops of Belarus and Russia.

"This is a good scenario. But empty, clueless. We won't give you that chance. But if you dare to set foot on our land, the answer will be the toughest. The West knows how we will respond and what weapons we will use," Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

He noted that in peacetime the Belarusian army is 75,000-strong. But if necessary, if there is war, it can be increased to half a million.

"Nobody needs war. While there is no expansion of the hostilities today, let's negotiate peace," the head of state urged.

At the same time, he believes that the West and Ukraine are not yet ready for this. "Not only are you not ready, it would be a terrible tragedy and a disaster for you if peace talks began now. You need war," Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

In this regard, he drew attention to another point - it is the West that sends mercenaries to Ukraine to fight. There are already more than 20,000 of them. "How many people did Lukashenko send there? How many? Zero! And you are throwing blame at me. I do not send people there and I am not going to do it," the president said.

One of the questions was about the possible fears of citizens of Belarus that their sons could be sent to fight in Ukraine. The head of state noted that people, in particular in the frontier areas, are concerned, for example, about a Ukrainian missile landing there. "Their anxiety has increased. Once their missile could land in our territory, it means that tomorrow it will be soldiers. This is the basic fear. And not that I will gather their children and send them to Ukraine. Any sensible Belarusian understands that I will not do this," Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The president noted that he is a military man himself, and he has three sons. "I understand them [citizens of Belarus] and therefore I am not going to send people there," he added.

Dialogue on peace should be conducted with Ukrainian military

The head of state recalled how negotiations between Ukraine and Russia were organized last year. The president managed to persuade the Ukrainian authorities to engage in a dialogue with Russia. A few rounds of negotiations were organized in Belarus. One more meeting was held in Istanbul; then the parties were preparing to conclude a peace treaty. However, the Ukrainian delegation thwarted the arrangements.

“So, who wants peace and who doesn't?” the Belarusian leader asked a rhetorical question. “If they had achieved peace, this [rejection of agreements] would not have happened in 5-7 years. It would be a lesson for both sides. The war has showed a lot,” he said.

Some people think that Russia cannot win this war, the head of state noted. But he said he has a different point of view. “It will be sensational if Russia does not win. But Russia will never lose a war. Never. The Americans were the first to say: that a nuclear power, in case with Russia the strongest nuclear power, will not lose a war,” the president said.

“To be absolutely frank, my point is that there is always someone to talk to about peace. It may seem strange but I think this dialogue should be conducted with the Ukrainian military. I am convinced of this. Ukraine's military have a somewhat, to put it mildly, different point of view than Ukrainian politicians and President Zelensky. Vladimir Zelensky is well aware of it. The upcoming, as many are already predicting, reshuffles in the military prove this point. The most professional military are most convinced that the war must be stopped. You will see that we - and the Russians in the first place - will have to negotiate with the Ukrainian military. You see what Ukrainian politicians are like. Talking heads from all over the world. You know that actions speak louder than words. Everybody knows how to talk, but not everyone can go to fight at the front or at least visit the front – none of them have been there. Arestovich, the poor guy, has been thrown out. All of them talk a lot. The military understand that,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed. “(People are used as cannon fodder there, they are ready to sacrifice millions of Ukrainians. The military understand that. The military will be able to negotiate peace agreements.”

“You can agree on unbelievable things with Russia”

"With Russia, you can agree on unbelievable things. Full stop. Unbelievable things indeed. But you need to take steps in this direction and not set preconditions before sitting down at the negotiating table. Setting preconditions like ‘leave the territory you have seized' seems fair, but in this case it suggests that they do not want to sit down at the negotiating table. Therefore, the focus should be on the military, since politicians do not understand this,” the head of state is convinced. "But as soon as some (I believe it is the military) sit down at the negotiating table, politicians and leadership of Ukraine will start singing a different tune."

"Now emotions are running high. It is 'an aggression' and so on. Seems fair. And so on and so forth. That's the case now. But time will pass and people (you see what they have to deal with not only in Donbass but also in Lvov) will start asking him [Vladimir Zelensky]: ‘Do we have to suffer all our lives? For what? What's next?' Meanwhile Zelensky is going to fight to the last Ukrainian and so on. What person would like that? If he is a far-sighted politician, he should look a little ahead. He should not run around Western Europe asking for F-16s or some other fighter jets, long-range MLRS. He should think about how to stop the war, so that 100,000 to 300,000 Ukrainians do not die in it. That's what we are talking about today," the Belarusian leader said. “Zelensky should simply understand: he is the President, this is his country, his state and he needs to pursue an independent policy. If he is unable (and we see that he is), then others will do it. Who - I have already talked about that. In this situation. Perhaps it will change and other people will come to negotiate. Any war ends in peace, so let's end it now. Now the conditions are more favorable for Ukraine. End this war and keep moving. In this case Ukraine will be supported by everyone. I'll be the first one. When we sit at the negotiating table. Wherever they want."

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