Russia attacks Ukraine: Belarus president says fighting has ‘dragged on’

MINSK, Belarus — Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko admitted Thursday that the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which he referred to as an “operation,” has “dragged on,” The Associated Press is reporting.

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In an interview with the news agency in Minsk, the longtime authoritarian leader accused Ukraine of provoking Russia, which invaded the country Feb. 24. But Lukashenko, 67, said he never expected the fighting to go on for so long, according to the AP.

“I am not immersed in this problem enough to say whether it goes according to plan, like the Russians say, or like I feel it. I want to stress one more time, I feel like this operation has dragged on,” Lukashenko, who assumed office in 1994, told the AP.

He said Belarus, which has been a key Russian ally, does not “accept any war,” according to the news agency; however, some Russian entered Ukraine from Belarus during the invasion, multiple news outlets reported at the time.

“We have done and are doing everything now so that there isn’t a war,” Lukashenko told the AP.

In early March, Lukashenko publicly supported Russia’s invasion, claiming Ukraine was planning to attack Belarus, the AP reported. Although he told the AP that he showed Russian President Vladimir Putin the site of the alleged planned attack on a map, he did not provide any evidence to support his claim, according to the news agency.

Since the invasion began, at least 3,193 civilians have died and 3,353 have been injured in Ukraine, the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner reported Tuesday. As of Wednesday, more than 5.7 million people had fled from Ukraine to other countries, including 3.1 million to neighboring Poland, according to the UN Refugee Agency.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.