Brazil condemns ‘violation’ of Ukraine’s territory amid criticism

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva also reiterated calls for a negotiated peace between Russian and Ukraine.

Brazilian President Lula drinks a toast with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva met with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis on Tuesday [Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters]

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has denounced the “violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity” after facing criticism for remarks he made over the weekend about Russia’s invasion of the country.

The left-wing leader, however, did double down on his call for mediation in the conflict, which began in February 2022.

“While my government condemns the violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, we advocate a negotiated political solution to the conflict,” Lula said in a speech following his meeting with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis.

The Brazilian leader explained that he expressed “concern” to Iohannis over the “global consequences” of the war “in terms of food and energy security, especially in the poorest regions of the planet”.

Brazil has positioned itself as an advocate for peace amid the war in Ukraine, which has injured or killed as many as 22,209 civilians by March 20, the United Nations has confirmed, though it notes the real number may be “considerably higher”.

But over the weekend, Lula inflamed international relations with remarks that appeared to blame Ukraine for its part in the war, saying it was caused by “decisions made by two countries”.

He also criticised the United States and Europe for “contributing” to the hostilities by supplying Ukraine with weapons. Lula explained that he hoped to build a “group of countries that have nothing to do with war, that don’t want war” to lead negotiations between Russia and Ukraine.

The Brazilian president’s comments – followed by a visit on Monday from Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov – led to an outcry from Ukraine, the US and their allies.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Oleg Nikolenko, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s foreign ministry, called on Lula to visit the war-torn country “to understand the real causes and essence of Russian aggression and its consequences for global security”.

“Ukraine is watching with interest the efforts of the President of Brazil to find a solution to end the war,” Nikolenko wrote. “At the same time, an approach that puts the victim and the aggressor on the same scale” does not “correspond to the real state of affairs”.

In a press briefing later in the day, the administration of US President Joe Biden likewise rejected Lula’s remarks, echoing earlier criticism from US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby that Brazil was “parroting” Russian propaganda.

“The US – and you’ve heard us say this many times – has no objection to any country that seeks to try to bring an end to Russia’s war against Ukraine,” the White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters, adding that she remains “confident in the strength of the US-Brazil relationship”.

But Jean-Pierre emphasised that the war in Ukraine was a war Russia started, “a war of their choice”. And she dismissed claims “suggesting that the United States and Europe were not interested in peace or that we share responsibility for the war”.

The “tone” of Lula’s remarks, Jean-Pierre said, “was not neutral and it is not true. And so we will continue to speak out against that”.

Lula previously called for Russia to pull back from the territory it invaded since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 but has also suggested that Ukraine might withdraw its claim to Crimea, a peninsula in the Black Sea that Moscow invaded and annexed in 2014.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has refused any such proposal.

On Monday, Lula’s foreign policy adviser Celso Amorim told the news outlet Globo that the Brazilian president never meant to “offend” anyone. He also said Brazil does not share Russia’s perspective on the war, nor does it hope to “defeat” Russia.

“Brazil defends the territorial integrity of Ukraine,” Amorim explained. But he reiterated calls for a negotiated peace: “As long as there are no talks, the ideal peace for the Ukrainians and the Russians will not happen. There must be concessions.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies