Moscow and Minsk persisted with doomed diplomatic efforts for too long, the Belarusian president believes
The conflict in Ukraine started years ago and the "only mistake" that Russia and Belarus made was not resolving the issue sooner, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Thursday.
Speaking at a meeting of Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) security chiefs, Lukashenko stated that the Ukraine conflict began even before the 2014 Maidan coup in Kiev, which ousted the country's democratically elected president, Viktor Yanukovich.
"I absolutely agree with President [Vladimir] Putin when he says that we did not start this war. It didn't even start in 2014. It started well before 2014. We saw everything that happened here: the 'brown' coup that took place, and what Ukraine has been led into," Lukashenko declared.
Hostilities were bound to break out sooner or later, the Belarusian leader claimed, adding that even if Moscow had not launched its military operation a year ago, it would have been inevitable anyway - but on even worse terms for Russia and Belarus.
The "only mistake" made by the two countries was continuing their efforts to resolve the conflict through diplomacy, rather than launching military action sooner, Lukashenko insisted.
According to Lukashenko, current Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky - as well as his predecessors Pyotr Poroshenko and Yanukovich - effectively did nothing to secure a "peaceful existence" for the country's citizens. They "didn't want war" but were apparently being pushed into it, Lukashenko alleged, adding that Kiev's Western backers have openly admitted to using the drawn-out diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis merely as a stopgap to arm and train Ukraine's military.
"They frankly admitted that they did everything to prepare Ukraine for a war with Russia," Lukashenko claimed, referring to remarks by former German Chancellor Angela Merkel and ex-French President Francois Hollande. Both figures have said that the Minsk agreements, signed in 2014 and 2015 as a purported roadmap for peace in the formerly Ukrainian Donbass, were a means to buy time to build up Ukrainian forces.