Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has warned the West against imposing tough sanctions on Moscow, saying that such measures could push Russia into a “third world war.”
“Now there is a lot of talk against the banking sector. Gas, oil, SWIFT. It's worse than war. This is pushing Russia into a third world war,” Lukashenko said on Sunday, as quoted by local media. He added that a nuclear conflict could be the final outcome.
Russia’s military attack against Ukraine, ordered by President Vladimir Putin on February 24, has been condemned by Western nations and has prompted a new wave of tough sanctions against Moscow.
In the latest move against Moscow the EU, UK, Canada and the US said “selected Russian banks” would be cut off from the SWIFT international payments system — a measure Russia has warned in the past would be regarded as a declaration of war. Despite the threat of further measures, Lukashenko stressed that both Russia and Belarus will “survive” any sanctions.
“We have experience. We discussed this theme with Putin more than once. We’ll survive. It is impossible to starve us to death,” he said.
Retaliatory measures being developed by Moscow and Minsk will be “very tangible,” but it is important to think them over “very carefully,” Lukashenko said, not to self-harm.
The Belarusian leader has also said if the West moved to put nuclear weapons in bordering countries, he would ask Putin to “return” Russia's own nuclear weapons to Belarus.
Moscow said on Sunday that Ukraine has agreed to dispatch a team of negotiators to Belarus for talks on ending the military conflict. The talks will take place in the Gomel Region, close to the borders of Russia and Ukraine, chief Russian negotiator Vladimir Medinsky said.
Putin has justified his military offensive against Ukraine by saying there was an urgent need to “demilitarize” the country to protect the newly-recognized Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics and to ensure that Russia would not be threatened by NATO from Ukrainian territory. Kiev has called the attack unprovoked and unjustified.
On Sunday, Putin ordered Russia’s nuclear deterrent forces to be on highest alert, noting the “unfriendly actions” and “aggressive statements” against Moscow from Western nations.