Ukraine could lose all of its territory if it chooses to continue fighting, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said in an interview on Thursday, adding that it pains him to see a country with so much potential ruined by oligarchs.
Towards the end of a two-hour YouTube interview in Minsk, Ukrainian journalist Diana Panchenko asked Lukashenko what Ukraine should do in order to preserve its statehood.
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“The first step is to end the war,” Lukashenko replied. “Yes, you can continue to struggle for these territories,” he said, pointing to Donbass, Kherson, and Zaporozhye on the map. “I’m not telling you to give them up or anything. But choose another method. If you fight for these territories, you will lose those,” he added, pointing out the areas further west.
The government of Ukraine insists on restoring its 1991 borders, meaning Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson, and Zaporozhye – who voted to join Russia in September 2022 – and Crimea, which did so in 2014, in response to the US-backed coup in Kiev.
Pointing to the map, Lukashenko explained that Russia can “crush” the Ukrainian military on the front, then move to cut Kiev off from the sea by taking Odessa, while Poland will “rub its hands with glee” and with US support move into the western regions. “Ukraine as we know it would cease to exist,” he added.
Russia’s main objective in Ukraine has already been achieved, Lukashenko said earlier in the interview, explaining that Moscow could not accept an aggressive and hostile regime on its doorstep.
Ukrainians need to figure out who they are and where they are before they can think about where they are going, he told Panchenko. But no one can think about the future when people are “buying and selling” conscription passes and anyone can be snatched off the street and sent to the front any day, the president added.
“What you need to do is restore order, based on normal principles known around the world, justice and so on, and build life from that,” Lukashenko said, adding that Ukraine needs a proper army that will “not fight for some oligarchs or one or two individuals, but protect the people.” Then it can start thinking about how to rebuild the economy and get its population fed and housed.
He explained what Belarus had to do starting in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed and Minsk was under tremendous pressure to privatize everything and transition to a Western-style economy. Ukraine did so and the oligarchs snapped everything up, he told Panchenko, while Belarus chose differently.
“Ukraine can do this. It’s a very rich country, much wealthier in natural resources and climate than Belarus,” Lukashenko said, noting at one point that “you can spit and a banana tree grows.”
“There is much to do. It’s time to start,” he said. “But you need to take the first step. The first step is to end the war.”