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Ukraine’s neighbor wants to play major part in peace talks

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko says that Minsk must have a place at the negotiating table during the Russia-Ukraine talks.

Lukashenko said that there was a war at the doorstep of his country during the Security Council meeting on Thursday. Open hostilities broke out in Ukraine after Moscow attacked the state in late February.

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“There can be no negotiations without the participation of Belarus,” Lukashenko said.

“This war is at our doorstep. And it seriously affects the situation in Belarus. So there can be no separate agreements behind the back of Belarus.”

“I know that Russia understands [our] position,” the president said, adding that, in the end, Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians “must sit down and negotiate as equals.”

Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei said that Moscow and Kiev were notified about his government’s view on the matter. “It is our unequivocal opinion that the president of Belarus must participate in the talks,” he said.

Negotiators from Russia and Ukraine met in Belarus and Turkey before switching to discussions via video link.

Russian troops used Belarusian territory to stage an offensive on Kiev from the north during the early weeks of the conflict. President Volodymyr Zelensky said this week that Lukashenko has “made some steps” in order to avoid dragging his country into a war with Ukraine. At the same time, Zelensky refused to rule out a conflict with Belarus in the future.

Moscow attacked Ukraine in late February, following Kiev’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements signed in 2014, and Russia’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German and French brokered Minsk Protocol was designed to regularize the status of the regions within the Ukrainian state.

Russia has now demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev says that the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.

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