Belarus president hosts Ukraine's interim leader

AFP , Saturday 29 Mar 2014

Belarus strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko hosted Ukraine's interim president Saturday for surprise talks that came after his ex-Soviet country voted against a UN General Assembly resolution denouncing Russia's annexation of Crimea.

The Belarus president's office said the meeting with Oleksandr Turchynov was held in Lukashenko's residence in the village of Lyaskovichi near the border with Ukraine.

The brief statement provided no other details and Turchynov's official website made no mention of the talks.

Belarus was one of just 11 countries along with Russia to vote against a non-binding UN General Assembly resolution supporting Ukraine's territorial integrity and condemning Russia's annexation of its Crimea peninsula earlier this month.

Lukashenko told Kiev television on Friday that he had already spoken by telephone to Ukrainian boxer turned opposition leader Vitali Klitschko and was hoping to build friendly future relations with Ukraine.

"One has to speak to the devil if necessary to avert things from turning worse," Lukashenko said Friday.

Belarus relies heavily on Russian oil and natural gas shipments and is part of a Kremlin-led three-state customs union that also includes Kazakhstan.

But Lukashenko -- once referred to by Washington as the last dictator of Europe -- has uneasy relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and has been known to make unpredictable political decisions since rising to power in 1994.

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