Bpeaking to the AP, Lukashenko said he and his country stand for peace and repeatedly called for the end of the “war” — a term the Kremlin refuses to use, calling the invasion a “special military operation” instead. “We categorically do not accept any war. We have done and are doing everything now so that there isn’t a war. Thanks to yours truly, me that is, negotiations between Ukraine and Russia have begun,” he said.

Belarus’ authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko defended Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in an interview Thursday with The Associated Press, but he said he didn’t expect the 10-week-old conflict to “drag on this way.”

He also spoke out against the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine but wouldn’t say if Russian President Vladimir Putin had plans to launch such a strike.

Lukashenko said Moscow, which launched the invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 — partly from his territory — had to act because Kyiv was “provoking Russia.”

“But 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,” he said in the nearly 90-minute interview at Independence Palace in Minsk. “I want to stress one more time: I feel like this operation has dragged on.”

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