Lukashenka discusses Ukraine crisis with former Ukrainian President Kuchma

Alyaksandr Lukashenka met on Thursday with former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma who arrived in Minsk earlier in the day to attend a round of trilateral talks on the ongoing Ukraine crisis.

Mr. Lukashenka promised that Belarus would do its utmost to help the normalization of the situation in Ukraine, which has seen fierce fighting between government forces and pro-Russian separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces, according to the government's news agency BelTA.

The Belarusian leader denied that Minsk had agreed to host the talks in an effort to boost its international image. "We don’t need anything of this. You know this well. I hate mediation," he was quoted as saying.

"We will be doing together with you everything that is needed to ease the confrontation in eastern Ukraine. We are very interested in this," he said.

Mr. Lukashenka noted that a peaceful resolution to the crisis was critically important to Belarus. "No one uses bloodshed and situations where people are killed for publicity stunts. That's why you may rest assured that we will host as many meetings of the contact group of which you are a member as possible," he said.

Mr. Lukashenka said that he had discussed the Ukraine crisis with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in detail during their telephone conversation earlier this week. Mr. Lukashenka said that he was happy to see Mr. Kuchma among the negotiators.

Mr. Kuchma described the crisis as grave and said that Ukraine's very survival was at stake. "The events of the recent months raise more questions than they give answers. And, unfortunately, there are still no answers. And we have come here for answers to some extent. We will try to find them with your and God's help," he said.

The talks were expected to involve representatives of Ukraine, Russia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. // BelaPAN