(Reuters) -Russian President Vladimir Putin is not trying to push Belarus into joining the war in Ukraine, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said in an online interview published on Thursday.
“To involve Belarus… what will that give? Nothing,” said Lukashenko, one of Putin’s closest allies, whose country borders Ukraine, Russia and three NATO countries including Poland.
“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.
Lukashenko also said he believed Putin had already achieved his goals in what Russia calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine, and said the two sides should sit at the negotiating table and be ready to discuss all the issues, including the future of Crimea and other Ukrainian territories Moscow claims.
“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.
Putin said Russia had to send tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine last year to protect its own security and that of native Russian-speakers, especially in eastern Ukraine, from what he said were “neo-Nazis” and ultra-nationalists in power in Kyiv.
Ukraine and its Western allies say this is nonsense and cast Russia’s invasion as an imperial-style land grab.
Lukashenko warned that Belarus would respond in the event of external aggression, including through the use of nuclear weapons that Moscow has stationed on its territory.
“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.
(Writing by Maxim RodionovEditing by Gareth Jones)
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