Brazil’s Lula met with protests in Portugal over Ukraine comments

The Brazilian leader’s remarks, implying both Russia and Ukraine are at fault for their ongoing war, have stoked anger.

Ukrainians draped in flags hold a demonstration
People protest outside the Brazilian embassy in Portugal as President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva makes a state visit to Lisbon [Pedro Nunes/Reuters]

Waving flags and holding photographs that depict war atrocities, Ukrainians have gathered outside the Brazilian embassy in Lisbon to protest Brazil President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s recent remarks about Russia’s war on their country.

The Brazilian president, who arrived in Portugal earlier on Friday for a five-day official visit, has angered many in the West for suggesting both Kyiv and Moscow were to blame for the war in Ukraine. Russia launched a full-scale invasion of its neighbour in February 2022.

Lula also said the United States and European allies should stop supplying arms to Ukraine, accusing them in comments last weekend of prolonging the war.

In recent days, he has toned down his rhetoric, condemning Russia’s violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, while calling again for mediation to end the war. The Ukrainian government has criticised Brazil’s approach for treating “the victim and the aggressor” the same way.

Ukrainian refugee Yana Kolomiiets, who has been in Portugal for four months, took part in the Lisbon protest and said she felt “terrible” when she heard Lula’s comments.

“It has made me so upset because I don’t know how the president of Brazil can support Putin,” the 27-year-old said, calling Putin a “killer”.

Two Brazilian officials told Reuters on Thursday that Lula – keen to protect Brazil’s neutrality – is expected to avoid criticism of the Western role in the Ukraine war during his visit to Portugal. He will meet the Portuguese president and prime minister on Saturday.

Outside the embassy, protesters held signs saying “Russia is a terrorist state” and “Stop killing our children”.

“People die in Ukraine every day and we need international support,” said the president of Portugal’s Ukrainian Association, Pavlo Sadokha, describing it as “strange” that a “president… who has fought for democracy all his life was now on the side of totalitarianism”.

Sadokha’s association delivered a letter to the Brazilian embassy to express their discontent, which was given to Brazil’s ambassador Raimundo Carreiro and government minister Marcio Macedo.

“Brazil and President Lula have a vocation for peace and the president will work to unite other countries to seek an alternative to end this conflict,” Macedo told reporters after receiving the letter.

On Tuesday, Ukraine invited Lula to visit Kyiv, a day after the Brazilian president met with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Brasilia.

Asked if the president would visit Ukraine, Macedo said Lula’s foreign policy adviser, Celso Amorim, would go. There was still no fixed date, he said.

Source: Reuters