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Lukashenka Warns Russia He Plans To Improve Ties With West

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has vowed to improve ties with the West, which are badly strained, and warned Russia not to oppose the effort.

Speaking to parliament on January 15, Lukashenka said his country will be "consistently and purposefully building ties with the EU and United States."

In a dig at Russia, which has been hit with Western sanctions over its interference in Ukraine, Lukashenka said, "We do not resent the fact that Russia currently is undertaking colossal efforts to normalize its relations with the West. Well, then you should not resent this either."

"All sides must calm down and work properly," he said, suggesting that Moscow's deep rift with the West was doing Russia's partners in regional trade and security alliances no good.

At the same time, he promised that Western countries will never "replace" Russia for Belarus, saying that "Belarus has never been a traitor."

Lukashenka has alienated the United States and EU with his intolerance for dissent over 20 years in power, but he often seeks to play Russia and the West off against each other.

Based on reporting on Belapan and RIA-Novosti