Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin this past week offered a surprising defense of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Over the weekend, clips of Lukashenko began circulating on social media, in which he argues that Zelensky has acted and reacted “appropriately” to Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent 20-month-long war in the assaulted nation.
Such comments from a staunch Putin ally were generally received with surprise.
Belarus, a former Soviet ally, has remained behind Russia throughout the decades, holding membership in Russia’s intergovernmental military alliance, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). While Belarus has not deployed troops to Ukraine, Minsk has offered extensive aid since the invasion and allowed Russian forces to make use of its land for strategic purposes.
Further, it was Lukashenko himself who brokered the deal between Putin and now-deceased Wagner PMC chief Yevgeny Prigozhin in June, ending the mercenary group’s two-day rebellion against Russian military brass after its forces had made it to less than 125 kilometers outside Moscow.
“We, and Russians, and journalists say that Zelensky is this and that, a beggar, acting disrespectfully and dishonestly. And I have to say that Zelensky is acting absolutely appropriately,” Lukashenko says during a Thursday news conference, according to a translation of his statement by Anton Gerashchenko, advisor to Ukraine’s Minister of Internal Affairs.
In an extended clip of the news conference, Lukashenko appears to suggest that the Ukraine-Russia war had been in the works since 2014—the same year Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.
However, Lukashensko also suggested in the clip that Zelensky was encouraged to fight by Western forces, which retired Lt. Col. Daniel Davis of the Defense Priorities think tank told Newsweek in an email was likely “another version of the disinformation campaign” by Russia and Belarus to try to “make Zelensky look bad, make America look bad, and the west look bad by implying that we desired conflict all along.”