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Ukraine recalls envoy to Belarus

The move comes after President Alexander Lukashenko met with the head of Russia’s Donetsk People’s Republic

Ukraine has recalled its ambassador to Belarus for “consultations” in protest at a meeting between Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and the acting head of Russia’s Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), Denis Pushilin. 

The move to recall envoy Igor Kizim was announced by the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday. Kiev condemned the meeting between Lukashenko and Pushilin, describing it as another “flagrant unfriendly act” by Minsk and “an attempt to legitimize this representative of the Russian occupation administration in Donetsk.” 

The ministry called on Belarus to “refrain from such destructive steps” and to cease support for Russia’s actions in Ukraine. 

Lukashenko welcomed Pushilin to the Belarusian capital on Tuesday, in what was their first official meeting since the DPR became part of Russia in September along with the Lugansk People’s Republic and Kherson and Zaporozhye Regions. 

The Belarusian president offered to help restoration efforts in the DPR, which has seen some of the heaviest fighting throughout the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The Ukrainian military has repeatedly shelled the region since 2014, when the DPR rejected Kiev’s rule following the Western-backed Maidan coup. Residential parts of the regional capital Donetsk have been among the areas hit, often resulting in civilian casualties.  

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“There is a lot of work ahead,” Lukashenko said during the meeting, according to the BelTa news agency. “Industrial enterprises and agriculture need to be revived. In the end, people will live there. This is 100%. And these people will need to be fed. Therefore, we are ready to provide all the necessary assistance so that people, who are not strangers to us, finally stop suffering.” 

Belarus has long been a close ally of Russia but has not directly participated in Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine. However, the two countries created a joint military grouping on Belarusian territory last autumn to address perceived threats from the West. Lukashenko has accused Western nations of being eager to drag Belarus into the Ukrainian conflict in order to extend the front line and stretch the resources of Russian forces. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced last month that Moscow intends to place tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus as early as this summer, after the UK disclosed plans to supply Kiev with depleted uranium munitions. Minsk had repeatedly called on Russia to deploy nuclear weapons on Belarusian soil, citing the perceived threat posed by US nuclear weapons deployed in neighboring countries.

April 19, 2023 at 02:34PM

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