The AP Interview: Belarus admits Russia’s war ‘drags on’

MINSK, Belarus (AP) – Belarus’ authoritarian leader said he did not expect Russia’s “operation” in Ukraine to drag on for so long and claimed he was doing “everything” to stop the warin a sit-down interview with The Associated Press on Thursday.

President Alexander Lukashenko defended Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which began on Feb. 24. However, he said he did not think it would “drag on this way.”

“But 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 during the nearly 90-minute interview at the Independence Palace in Minsk.

He also alleged that Ukraine was “provoking Russia” and insisted that Belarus stands for peace.

“We categorically do not accept any war. We have done and are doing everything now so that there is not a war. Thanks to yours truly, me that is, negotiations between Ukraine and Russia have begun, ”he said.

“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?”

Russia deployed forces to Belarusian territory under the pretext of military drills and then sent them rolling into Ukraine as part of the invasion that began on Feb. 24.

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.

Earlier this week, Belarusian military announced snap drills that raised concerns in Ukraine. However, Lukashenko assured the AP on Thursday that the drills did not threaten anyone.

“We do not threaten anyone and we are not going to threaten and will not do it. Moreover, we can not 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. ”

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Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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