BY ANDREW STANTON ON 5/23/22 AT 6:37 PM EDT
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a key ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has warned that Western countries supplying weapons to Ukraine could lead to World War III.
In a letter to United Nations Secretary General António Guterres released on Monday, Lukashenko warned that international efforts to bolster Ukraine’s security could lead to the conflict in that country expanding into another world war, according to Belarusian state media outlet Belta.
Lukashenko said Belarus “calls on the countries of the world to unite and prevent the regional conflict in Europe from escalating into a full-scale world war!”
Several world powers, including the United States, have recently supplied billions of dollars in aid, including weapons, to Ukraine, following Russia’s widely condemned invasion. But leaders have walked a thin line between supporting Ukraine and avoiding direct engagement with Russia in an effort not to escalate the conflict, specifically with regard to nuclear weapons.
As the Belarusian leader warned against the international community selling weapons to Ukraine, he accepted nuclear-capable missiles from Russia, an indication of just how close the two countries remain.
As most European countries condemned Russia’s invasion and supported Ukraine, Belarus has emerged as the Kremlin’s closest ally in the invasion. Lukashenko has remained relatively quiet about the war, offering only thinly veiled criticisms that the conflict is dragging on too long—a stark contrast from other European leaders who have wholeheartedly backed Ukraine.
In an English translation of his letter released on Monday, Lukashenko listed ways he said that the international community could help avoid escalating the conflict: “refrain from arms supplies, from information warfare and any provocations, from inflating hate speech in the media, from promoting racism and discrimination on the grounds of national, cultural, linguistic and religious affiliation, from legalizing and sending mercenaries.” He added, “We must jointly resist restrictive trade measures.”
He continued to advise that the United Nations play only a peacekeeping role throughout the conflict. Lukashenko also attacked Western leaders for their handling of Russia, appearing to cast blame on them for the invasion.
“The reluctance of Western countries to work to strengthen unified and indivisible security, their disrespect for legitimate interests and ignoring the concerns of other partners, primarily Russia, resulted first in trade, economic and information wars, and then provoked a heated conflict on the territory of Ukraine,” he wrote.
The Belarusian president’s letter came after the United States recently sent aid to Ukraine.
Among a Ukrainian aid package announced in April, the U.S. sent weapons including 72 155mm Howitzers, 144,000 artillery rounds, 72 tactical vehicles used to tow the Howitzers and more than 121 “Phoenix Ghost Tactical” drones. The U.S. Senate also passed a $40 billion bipartisan package last week.
Lukashenko’s letter was not the first time Russia and its allies have invoked World War III. In late April, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned there is a “serious” risk of a global conflict, accusing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization of engaging in a proxy conflict with Russia. He said sending weapons to Ukraine “adds fuel to the fire,” a similar argument to the one used by Lukashenko.
Guterres’ spokesman Stéphane Dujarric de la Rivière confirmed to Newsweek he received the letter but declined to comment on its contents.