Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko commented during his most recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, drawing some extra attention.
“You know the two of us are co-aggressors, the most harmful and toxic people on this planet,” Lukashenko said with Putin sitting at his side. “We have only one argument—who is bigger. Vladimir Vladimirovich says I am, I’m starting to think he is, so we decided together. The same. That’s all.”
The 20-second clip was posted to Twitter by Ukrainian internal affairs adviser Anton Gerashchenko. Lukashenko and Putin met in Minsk, Belarus, for the first time in three years, with all previous meetings taking place in Moscow.
Monday’s encounter comes after weeks of speculation regarding Belarus’ future role, if any, in the Russia-Ukraine conflict. It also occurred mere days since Lukashenko seemed to imply that his country could have been in Ukraine’s current position if not for his friendship with Putin.
Since Putin launched his Ukraine invasion on February 24, Belarus has emerged as one of Russia’s closest strategic allies as Putin faces rebuke from the West. Lukashenko has publicly supported the Russian leader, even allowing Russian troops to enter Ukraine from the Belarus-Ukraine border, providing closer access to the capital city of Kyiv.
Although initially billed by Belarusian and Russian officials as a meeting to discuss economics and sanctions resulting from the invasion, it was thought to be an attempt on Russia’s behalf to lobby Belarus to insert itself militarily or otherwise.
Lukashenko said that Belarus and Russia have managed to respond to all threats despite pressures resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, sanctions and other crises, Russian state media outlet TASS reported Monday.
“Strengthening Belarusian-Russian ties has become a natural response to the changing situation in the world, in which our strength has constantly been tested,” Lukashenko said. “I believe that, despite some rough spots, we can still find effective responses to various challenges and threats.”
The first portion of Monday’s meeting included delegations from the two countries, TASS reported. Among the present officials were Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexey Overchuk, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Kremlin aide Yury Ushakov, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, and Roscosmos CEO Yury Borisov.
Peskov reportedly said before the Putin-Lukashenko meeting that the two would discuss military issues, and regional and international problems. Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with his Belarusian counterpart, Sergey Aleinik, to discuss Ukraine and the sanctions levied by the West.
The meeting entailed conversation about other bilateral issues, including “special attention” paid to implement so-called Union State programs to integrate both nations economically.
“The parties exchanged views on international and regional issues, including the situation around the Ukrainian crisis,” the Russian Foreign Ministry’s statement read. “They reaffirmed their determination to coordinate steps on international platforms and efforts to resist the political and illegal sanctions pressure that Russia and Belarus have been facing from unfriendly countries.”
Following a cordial handshake between Putin and Lukashenko, Belarusian oppositionist Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya tweeted that Belarus is “not for sale.”
“Belarus is not for sale. Our independence is not for sale,” she wrote. “The dictator Lukashenka can’t make agreements on behalf of our people—he only represents himself. And he won’t save his own skin.”
Meanwhile, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a U.S.-based think tank, said earlier this month in a report that it remains “extraordinarily unlikely” for Belarus to involve itself in the Russia-Ukraine war.
“Belarus lacks capabilities to produce its own armored fighting vehicles making the transfer of this equipment to Russian forces both a current and a likely long-term constraint on Belarusian material capacities [to] commit mechanized forces to the fighting in Ukraine,” the ISW wrote.
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