Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said on Thursday that his country must be involved in negotiations to resolve the conflict in Ukraine and that he expected to hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the next few days.
"There can be no separate agreements behind Belarus's back," Lukashenko was quoted as saying by the Belarusian state news agency Belta.
"Since you dragged us into this - principally Western countries - the position of Belarus naturally needs to be heard at these negotiations."
Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei went further, saying that Lukashenko himself "must participate in the (final) meeting".
Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24 from both Russian and Belarusian territory in what it called a "special military operation" designed to demilitarise and "denazify" its neighbour.
Ukraine and Western governments reject that as a false pretext for an invasion that has forced over 10 million to flee their homes, killed or injured thousands and destroyed cities and towns.
Lukashenko has said Belarus's armed forces are not taking part and will not take part in the conflict, and asserted on Thursday that Belarus had been unfairly labelled "an accomplice of the aggressor".
However, the European Union, the United States and others have included Belarus in the sweeping sanctions imposed on Russia.
"We do not need this war," Belta quoted Lukashenko as saying. "Because as a result of this conflict between two Slavic peoples, we are the ones who may suffer the most."
Although Belarus now relies heavily on Russia for economic and military support, Lukashenko has at times in the past tried to distance himself from Moscow in favour of better relations with the European Union.
In 2020, the Kremlin helped Lukashenko forcibly put down mass pro-democracy protests alleging fraud in an election that gave him a sixth consecutive term as president, and crush what was left of Belarus's political opposition.
(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Kevin Liffey, Alexandra Hudson)