Belarus’ authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko arrived in Kyiv Sunday to offer his support as Ukraine struggles with its pro-Russian separatist insurgency and to try to revive stalled peace talks.
At a meeting, Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko told Lukashenko, “I would like to especially thank you for an absolutely clear position on the sovereignty and territorial integrity and the independence of our country."
“For us, your hard-line stance, which you have always expressed, including the stance on non-recognition of the pseudo elections on November 2 on the territory of Donetsk and Luhansk - we appreciate it very much and I'm thankful to you for this,” Poroshenko said.
Lukashenko responded: “I want everything in Ukraine to be good,” according to the Belarusian state news agency Belta. “If something is needed from Belarus, say so, and we will do it all for you in a day,” he added.
The uprising by the separatists, who oppose central rule by Kyiv and seek union with Russia, began a month after Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine in March.
Pro-Western authorities in Kyiv accuse Russia of orchestrating the uprising in the east after the ouster of former president Viktor Yanukovych, who enjoyed Moscow's backing. The Kremlin denies it is behind the revolt.
Belarus, which is a close ally of Russia, also maintains a solid relationship with Ukraine. Belarus also hosted major negotiations between an international contact group in its capital, Minsk, in September that produced deals on a cease-fire and partial self-rule for the two mostly Russian-speaking regions of eastern Ukraine that rebelled against Kyiv in April.
According to Kyiv officials Sunday's meeting between the two was unrelated to the contact group of envoys from Russia, Ukraine and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
The cease-fire agreed to in September succeeded in stemming the worst fighting, but it has been repeatedly flouted by both sides, resulting in at least 1,300 more deaths. The United Nations said the death toll from Europe's worst security crisis since the Balkan wars of the 1990s is more than 4,700.
Lukashenko's first visit to Kyiv since Ukraine’s historic shift westward last winter comes as European Union efforts to get the peace talks back on track are in full swing.
Overnight, Poroshenko held his third conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel since last weekend about the continued delay of the talks, the French news agency AFP reported.
Poroshenko and Merkel agreed that the new talks should "produce a demarcation line and establish a roadmap for withdrawing troops and releasing hostages," the Ukrainian president's office told AFP on Sunday.
No date has been set for new Minsk talks, but Ukraine officials expected the meeting to happen "soon," AFP reported.
Kazakhstan's autocratic President Nursultan Nazarbayev is to meet with Poroshenko on Monday in Kyiv, before heading to Moscow where he and Lukashenko are to attend a trade bloc meeting along with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Some material for this report came from Reuters, AFP and AP.