Lukashenka backs Zelenskiy proposal for top-level peace talks in Minsk

Alyaksandr Lukashenka has expressed support for the Ukrainian president’s proposal for a top-level international meeting in Minsk on the Ukraine crisis.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Monday that he was ready to meet with Vladimir Putin in the Belarusian capital for talks that he said should also involve the leaders of France, Germany, the UK and the United States.

“Our president absolutely supports Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s proposals,” said the Belarusian leader’s press office. Minsk believes that Ukraine and Russia should stop “looking at each other through gun sights” and should come to the negotiating table instead, it said.

According to the press office, Mr. Lukashenka has repeatedly argued that the crisis should be settled by Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, without involvement from West European countries or the United States.

“But since they have been unable to fix the problem using this format, and one of the parties to the conflict - Ukraine in this case - insists on and proposes the participation of other players, we support this format, too,” said the press office. “The more so as Alyaksandr Lukashenka has long spoken about the participation of the United States in resolving this conflict - it will be difficult to fix the problem without the Americans, they are too immersed in these processes.”

The press office said that there can be no disagreement about the venue proposed by the Ukrainian president. “The war is at our door and Minsk has always found it an honor to host international initiatives and talks,” it said.

In a social media video, Mr. Zelenskiy invited the Russian president to “discuss to whom Crimea belongs and who is not there in  Donbass.”

The Ukrainian president said that Mr. Lukashenka would be “happy to host us in Minsk.”

Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for the Russian president, said that the Kremlin would consider the proposal. “First, one needs to understand whether there is a prospect for such a meeting. Second, one needs to understand what kind of new format is being proposed,” Russia’s Tass news agency quoted him as saying.

Mr. Peskov said that the United States had not participated in the "Normandy Four" talks and its representative had not signed the so-called Minsk agreements.

“This is a new initiative, it will be considered, of course, but I cannot express any reaction so far,” he said.

The Minsk agreements, which outline a path toward ending fighting in Ukraine’s Donbas region, were signed as a result of an hours-long meeting held by the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine in Minsk in February 2015.