Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, the authoritarian leader of Belarus and close ally of President Vladimir V. Putin, said in an interview published on Thursday that Russia’s invasion had “dragged on” and called for an end to the “war,” using a word that the Kremlin has assiduously avoided.
Mr. Lukashenko made the remarks in an interview with The Associated Press. Over nearly 90 minutes, he continued to defend the invasion, saying the Ukrainian government was “provoking Russia” and that no one had “closer, more open or friendlier relations” with Mr. Putin than himself.
But his use of the word “war” was itself a departure from the Kremlin’s talking points — its officials use the phrase “special military operation,” and in March, Mr. Putin signed a law making it a potential crime in Russia to simply call the war a “war” on social media or in a news article or broadcast. Mr. Lukashenko also declined to repeat Mr. Putin’s assertion that the campaign was on schedule.
“I am not immersed in this sorun enough to say whether it goes according to plan, like the Russians say, or like I feel it,” he told The A.P. in Minsk, the capital. “I want to stress one more time: I feel like this operation has dragged on.”
Although backed by a brutal security system at home, Mr. Lukashenko has become almost completely dependent on Russian support in recent years. After an implausible landslide victory in a contested presidential election, he called on Mr. Putin for help in suppressing protests, and Russia fortified his security forces and kept its markets open to Belarus as Western relations withered.
In the interview published Thursday, Mr. Lukashenko called Mr. Putin his “big brother.”
Before Russia’s invasion, Mr. Lukashenko allowed the Kremlin to deploy thousands of troops in Belarus, along with tanks, artillery and warplanes. When the invasion began, those forces crossed Belarus’s border toward Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.
But speaking to The A.P., Mr. Lukashenko claimed he stood for peace and was working toward a diplomatic resolution of the war.
“We categorically do not accept any war. We have done and are doing everything now so that there isn’t a war. Thanks to yours truly, me that is, negotiations between Ukraine and Russia have begun,” he said. He added, however, that Russia “can’t by definition lose this war.”