Belarus leader Lukashenko says he had long chat with Putin on war anniversary
(Reuters) - Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said he held a long conversation with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Friday, the one-year anniversary of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. "I'll tell you a secret, last night he and I spoke for a long time on various topics," a social media channel linked to Lukashenko's press service quoted him as telling reporters, without giving details.
The Kremlin has yet to provide any statement about the conversation.
Lukashenko is a close ally of Russia and is beholden to Putin for shoring him up in 2020 after mass protests broke out against a presidential election that the Belarus opposition and Western governments accused the veteran leader of rigging.
Lukashenko has denied the election was rigged and accused the West of funding protesters. He has supported Putin in his year-long war with Ukraine, including by letting him invade from Belarusian territory and by allowing Russia to train newly mobilised troops in Belarus.
Ukraine's army, fighting Russia at full stretch in the south and east of the country, has also been forced to divert troops to guard its northern flank in case Belarus were to intervene directly in support of Russia - something Lukashenko says it will not do unless directly attacked by Ukraine.
Russia and Belarus are allied in a "Union State" in which Moscow is by far the dominant partner, but Lukashenko dismissed media reports this week that Russia had drawn up a plan to absorb Belarus by 2030. "Don't listen to this nonsense and chatter. It was created to divide us," he was quoted as saying.
Separately, the state news agency Belta said Lukashenko would start a three-day visit to China on Tuesday.
China, which has a close partnership with Russia and has refrained from criticising its invasion of Ukraine, published a ceasefire proposal on Friday that was greeted with scepticism in the West.
(Reporting by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Helen Popper)