The AP interview: Belarus admits Russian war is ‘dragging’

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

President Alexander Lukashenko defended the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24. However, he said he didn’t think it “would drag on”.

“But I am not immersed enough in this issue to say whether it is going according to plan, as the Russians say, or as I feel. I want to emphasize once again that I feel that this operation has dragged on,” Lukashenko said during the nearly 90-minute interview at the Independence Palace in Minsk.

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

“We categorically do not accept any war. We have done everything and are now doing everything so that there is no war. Thanks to the undersigned, that is to me, the negotiations between Ukraine and Russia have started,” he said.

“But why is Ukraine, on whose territory a war is going on, military action, people are dying, – why is Ukraine not interested in these negotiations?”

Russia deployed troops on Belarusian territory under the pretense of military exercises and then sent them to Ukraine as part of the invasion that began on February 24.

Lukashenko publicly supported the operation, claiming during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in early March that Ukraine planned to attack Belarus and that Moscow’s offensive was preventing it. He said he brought a map showing Putin from where the alleged attack would take place, but offered no other evidence to substantiate the claim.

Earlier this week, the Belarusian army announced rapid exercises that raised concerns in Ukraine. However, Lukashenko assured the AP on Thursday that the exercises did not threaten anyone.

“We are not threatening anyone and we are not going to threaten and we will not. Besides, we can’t threaten — we know who is opposing us, so unleashing some kind of conflict, some kind of war here in the West is absolutely not in the interest of the Belarusian state. So that the West can sleep peacefully.”

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

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