Lukashenka claims that Putin has no plans to move further into Ukraine
Vladimir Putin has no intention to move further into Ukraine, Alyaksandr Lukashenka said in an interview broadcast by Ukraine’s First National Channel on Friday night.
“I am saying this to you with all responsibility,” the Belarusian leader said. “He [Putin] was very right to say that there was a certain limit, there was a red line that should not be crossed. You should understand Russia. And we also suffered from that. Russia was driven to such a degree that the moment came when it could not longer tolerate. For it, for such an empire, that would be equal to death.”
“When they started to beat up, kill and stab – as many thought – Russian people – the Russian public viewed that as such and Putin viewed that as such – should Putin have kept silent? Russian people, both Belarusians and Russians, were called non-citizens in the Batlic countries. We swallowed that. Poland behaves in the worst possible way, like a vassal of America. Both we and they [Russia] tolerate this. They [the West] try to put pressure irrespective of whether or not this is appropriate. They put extreme pressure with regard to Syria and Iran. We endure this. Russia endures this and puts up with all this.”
“What are you supposed to do if some men are standing at your door, at you brother’s door with a knife in their hands and say, ‘We’ll stab you’? Will you wait until being stabbed? Russia had to respond,” Mr. Lukashenka said.
When the interviewer remarked that there was actually no knife, Mr. Lukashenka said, “I know that there was no knife, but people in Russia took this as such and we did so. We believed that such things might happen, and that if that was not ended, a knife would emerge.”
Mr. Lukashenka agreed that the overwhelming majority of the Ukrainians viewed Russia’s actions as an encroachment on their country’s territory and sovereignty.
“Further movement in this direction would be an act of aggression,” he said. “Ukrainians would interpret view this as such a case. We should by no means make such moves into Ukraine. For many reasons, I don’t like at all what is going on in the east [of Ukraine]. It is necessary to try to appease the situation, not to heat it up.”
Mr. Lukashenka noted that Russia might misinterpreted the developments in Ukraine, but Ukrainian television channels themselves broadcasted footage of violence against officials loyal to President Viktor Yanukovych, footage of looting and destroyed production facilities and offices.
People grew outrageous, primarily in Crimea, which has a population of 2.5 million, with 1.5 million being Russian-speaking people, Mr. Lukashenka said. “Putin and the Russian public took this as something that could not be tolerated and they started to act,” he said. “You can condemn him, and also me for my words, and say that such is not the case, and that we are mistaken. But why did you give us a pretext? Why did you lead us to take this as such?”
“You should not demonize Putin,” Mr. Lukashenka said. “He is neither a demon nor an aggressor. Yes, he may have fallen under someone else’s influence. Someone was right to say that the influence of the military started to prevail at a certain moment. But capturing Ukraine is out of the question…. He understands pretty well that it would be excessive if he moved until he reached the Dnieper River or western Ukraine and reunited it with Russia. I talked much with him and he never expressed such ambitions.”
According to Mr. Lukashenka, the only thing the Russian president wants is that there should be peace in Ukraine, that there should be no NATO troops in the east of Ukraine, and that Ukraine should not join NATO. “He is also keen to see Ukraine together [with Russia], preferably a member of the Customs Union,” Mr. Lukashenka said. “He would view that as his achievement. This would be correct. He is anxious for this. He doesn’t dream of invading and capturing Ukraine.”
“Actually, it is not so easy to capture Ukraine because this would stir up all Europe and the entire world and he would thereby unleash a world war,” Mr. Lukashenka said. “He realizes this pretty well.”
According to Mr. Lukashenka, the relationship between Moscow and Kyiv may improve after Ukraine conducts a presidential election scheduled for May 25.
“Although the situation is not good, it [the election] should be conducted,” he said, noting that the outcome of the election might be unfavorable for the current authorities.
Ukraine needs a national leader who would be accepted in both the west and the east of the country, Mr. Lukashenka noted. According to him, presidential hopefuls should think how to gain the support of voters in eastern Ukraine, where most people are scared by news from Kyiv and may bring to power a person like Sergei Aksyonov, the proclaimed prime minister of Crimea. //