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31 Mar, 2023 12:27

Key Russian ally calls for truce in Ukraine

Moscow and Kiev would freeze movement of troops and military equipment under the deal, the Belarusian president has suggested
Key Russian ally calls for truce in Ukraine

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has urged Russia and Ukraine to agree a ceasefire, warning Kiev that its apparently imminent counteroffensive could lead to the conflict spiraling completely out of control.

In a speech to the Belarusian parliament on Friday, Lukashenko stated that the only path to peace in Ukraine lies through diplomatic engagement. Moscow and Kiev “should stop now before escalation ensues,” he argued.

“I will try to risk suggesting a cessation of hostilities… to declare a truce without the right to move or regroup troops on both sides, [and] without the right to transfer weapons, ammunition… and military equipment… for everybody just to freeze,” the president said.

Lukashenko claimed that the West had previously attempted to use a truce to strengthen its hand in Ukraine, but that if it did so again, Russia “would be obliged to use all its military and industrial might to prevent escalation in the conflict.” 

The comment was likely a reference to remarks by former German Chancellor Angela Merkel and ex-French President Francois Hollande. The two former leaders admitted last year that the now-defunct 2014 and 2015 Minsk Agreements, which sought to pave the way for peace by giving the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk special status within the Ukrainian state, were merely an attempt to buy time for Kiev’s forces to become stronger.

Lukashenko warned that a potential Ukrainian counteroffensive, which could take place this spring, “would be extremely dangerous” and could “dash all hopes for a negotiating process and bring about an irreversible escalation in the conflict.” 

Commenting on Lukashenko’s ceasefire proposal, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart would discuss the issue next week at the Supreme Council of the Union State, a supranational organization seeking to boost ties between the two countries.

“However, in the context of Ukraine nothing changes,” Peskov added. “[Russia’s] special military operation continues, since it is now the only tool to accomplish the goals that our country is facing.” 

Moscow has repeatedly said it is open to talks with Kiev on condition that it recognizes “the reality on the ground.” That includes the new status of four former Ukrainian regions which voted overwhelmingly to join Russia last autumn. However, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky last year signed a decree prohibiting negotiations with the current Russian leadership.