Ukraine war has dragged on, admits Putin ally Lukashenko

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Alexander Lukashenko and Vladimir PutinImage source, Reuters
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Ties have occasionally been rocky between Mr Lukashenko and Mr Putin but they've grown closer in recent years

A key ally of Russia, authoritarian Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, has defended the war in Ukraine while indicating it has not gone to plan.

He told the AP news agency that the operation had "dragged on".

Belarus shares a border with Ukraine and Russia sent troops from there when it launched its invasion.

Russia's Vladimir Putin helped Mr Lukashenko cling to power in 2020 after his widely disputed presidential re-election sparked mass protests.

In turn, Belarus's long-time leader has given his backing to Russia's invasion and critics have said he is little more than a vassal and accomplice to Mr Putin.

In his interview with AP, Mr Lukashenko said that Russia's leader had no choice but to act because Ukraine was "provoking Russia".

But he added: "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."

Mr Lukashenko said he wanted the war to end, saying Belarus had "done and are doing everything" to stop it.

By calling it a war, he went further than Russia's own description of its invasion as a "special military operation". Moscow has justified the war as an effort to "demilitarise and de-Nazify" Ukraine - which is considered a baseless pretext.

Mr Lukashenko also said that any suggestion that Russia might use nuclear weapons against Ukraine was "unacceptable because it's right next to us", but added he did not know whether Moscow intended to use them.

Although Belarus has provided a platform for Russian forces it has not sent its own troops in. On Wednesday it began snap military drills which it said posed no threat to Ukraine.

Belarus was already under Western sanctions following the 2020 election, and faces further measures over its role in the conflict.

It was one of only a handful of countries to back Russia's invasion at an emergency UN vote.

Out of the 193 UN member states, 141 condemned the war, with some major countries like China and India choosing to abstain.

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