* Lukashenko criticises separatist votes in Ukraine
* Says would fight any invader, even Putin
* Belarus is close Russian ally
By Jason Bush
MOSCOW, May 22 Belarussian President Alexander
Lukashenko has criticised separatist referendums in Ukraine and
warned Russia not to take any more ex-Soviet territory after
annexing Crimea, Russian media reported.
"Ukraine must be a united, whole state. Both the east and
the west are Ukraine," Lukashenko was quoted as saying in an
interview late on Wednesday with Internet channel Dozhd.
Lukashenko said he would fight any invader including Russian
President Vladimir Putin. "No matter who comes to Belarussian
land, I will fight. Even if it is Putin," he said.
Under Lukashenko's authoritarian rule since 1994, Belarus is
Russia's closest ally, relying on Moscow for cheap energy and
serving as a buffer zone between Russia and NATO nations. But
the president often tells Belarussians he will bend to neither
Russia nor the West.
The May 11 referendums organised by pro-Moscow separatists
in two eastern Ukrainian regions "have no meaning at all from
the legal point of view," Lukashenko was quoted as saying.
Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March after a
referendum considered a sham by Kiev and the West.
Putin secured consent from parliament in March to send the
military into Ukraine to protect Russian-speakers, and NATO says
Russia has amassed 40,000 troops near the border with Ukraine.
Moscow says some are now being withdrawn.
Lukashenko's comments may add to pressure on Putin to
distance Russia from the separatist militants who are
threatening to disrupt Ukraine's presidential election on
The United States and European Union, which accuse Moscow of
supporting the separatists, are threatening to impose further
sanctions on Russia if it disrupts the vote.
While he relies on Russia economically, Lukashenko holds
some sway over Moscow because he is a crucial partner in Putin's
efforts to build a Eurasian Economic Union linking former Soviet
(Editing by Steve Gutterman and Janet Lawrence)