Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has been derided by world leaders as “dangerous” and a “small, feral-eyed man” as he directs the invasion of Ukraine. But don’t tell that to Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko.
In an interview with a Japanese media outlet, Lukashenko – a Putin ally whose country borders both Russia and Ukraine and was reportedly used as a staging area for the invasion that began Feb. 24 and is now in its fourth week – described the 69-year-old former KGB agent as “a completely sane, healthy person, physically healthy – he’s an athlete.
“As they say here,” Lukashenko added about Putin, “he’ll catch a cold at all our funerals.”
Lukashenko shared his views with Japan’s TBS television channel, the New York Post reported.
“Putin is absolutely fit, he’s in better shape than ever,” added the Belarusian leader, 67, who has led the country since 1994.
Lukashenko also claimed to be a close, personal confidant of Putin’s as well as a political supporter, the Post reported.
“He and I haven’t only met as heads of state, we’re on friendly terms,” Lukashenko said, according to the report. “I’m absolutely privy to all his details, as far as possible, both state and personal.”
The remarks from Lukashenko came the same week that Putin appeared at a massive concert event in Moscow to mark the eighth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea following the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, during the Obama administration.
At the rally, Putin claimed the Ukraine invasion was necessary to prevent a “genocide” against Ukraine’s Russian-speaking people – a claim that Western leaders have flatly rejected, Fox News previously reported.
Instead, leaders in the U.S. and other Western countries claim Putin wants to make Ukraine part of a revival of the old Soviet Union, which collapsed more than three decades ago.
But Putin’s plan has been stalled by an apparent miscalculation of the Ukrainians’ resolve and ability to fend off invading Russian forces, plus an unexpected level of unity in the West’s rejection of the war and its support for Ukraine, according to a previous Fox News report.
Putin recently was described by U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, as a “small, feral-eyed man” during a TV appearance, and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg accused the Russian leader of using “dangerous rhetoric” about potential weapon use, the Post reported.
Last week, Lukashenko and his wife were listed among foreign officials targeted by economic sanctions leveled by the Biden administration in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Lukashenko was accused of various acts of corruption in a statement from the U.S. Treasury Department.
“Despite coming to power nearly 30 years ago on an anti-corruption platform, [Alexander Lukashenko] … has used his authorities to grant unique privileges and advantages to his associates that could only be offered by the Belarusian state, including, but not limited to, government support, assets, property, amended governmental policies, financial relief, and an acceptance of smuggling of certain goods,” the Treasury Department alleged in a statement.
Treasury also said Lukashenko used his power over health inspections and ability to pressure landlords to hike up rent to target political opponents.
Lukashenko had previously been sanctioned by the U.S. in 2006 and 2021.
Fox News’ Ronn Blitzer contributed to this story.