Belarus Leader Urges U.S. Involvement in Ukraine Peace Process

Alyaksandr Lukeshenko file photo

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Aliaksandr Kudrytski, Ryan Chilcote – March 31, 2015)

Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko urged the U.S. to play a bigger role in the Ukrainian peace process and said a lasting solution will be impossible without its help.

“The most worrying thing is that the U.S. hasn’t been openly involved in this process,” Lukashenko said in the new Independence Palace in Minsk, the capital. “I believe that without the Americans, there can be no stability in Ukraine.”

Lukashenko’s support for more U.S. involvement highlights his balancing act between Belarus’s eastern neighbor and the world’s largest superpower. The Belarusian leader is appealing to America, which has hit him with sanctions over the treatment of political freedoms, as his alliance with Russian President Vladimir Putin runs counter to growing unease across eastern Europe over the Kremlin’s expansionism.

As the crisis in Ukraine unfolded and Russia annexed Crimea a year ago, Lukashenko has repeatedly expressed readiness to protect the independence of his country, which shares borders with Russia, Ukraine and the European Union. The conflict next door also allowed Lukashenko to loosen his isolation as Belarus hosted several rounds of peace talks including the meetings in February that led to a cease-fire.

At that meeting, Putin brokered a deal with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Ukraine’s leader, Petro Poroshenko, to quell the yearlong conflict that the United Nations says has left more than 6,000 people dead.

The U.S., the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization say Russia is supporting the separatists with hardware, cash and troops — accusations the Kremlin denies. Russia says Ukraine is waging war on its own citizens and discriminates against Russian speakers.

Lukashenko, who’s led Belarus since 1994, may run for a fifth presidential term this year, potentially facing a divided opposition. The state of the economy may be the biggest campaign issue as the nation struggles to cope with the effect of a downturn in Russia, its main export market.

Article ©2015 Bloomberg L.P. All Rights Reserved. Article also appeared at http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-03-31/belarus-leader-urges-u-s-involvement-in-ukraine-peace-process

[feature image is file photo]

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