Ukraine’s Zelenskyy addresses Mexican congress, denounces critics

Ukrainian president slammed politicians who seek ‘some sort of populism’ by dismissing his country’s pursuit of peace.

A screen positioned in front of Mexico's lower chamber of Congress, with a big Mexican flag draped against the wall
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on Mexico’s Congress to show ‘leadership’ for peace [Marco Ugarte/AP Photo]

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called on Mexican legislators to support his country’s fight against invading Russian forces, chastising those he accused of denying Ukraine’s pursuit of peace.

“There are some leaders who have not visited Ukraine once and who have not seen what the brutal Russian aggression brought,” Zelenskyy told the Mexico-Ukraine Friendship Group via video on Thursday.

Some of those leaders, he added, sought to “achieve some sort of populism” by saying that “Ukraine is supposedly not ready to go for peace”.

The speech was Zelenskyy’s first address to Mexican legislators since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

It came in the wake of controversial comments from Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who attributed the war to “decisions made by two countries” — seemingly implicating Ukraine in Russia’s decision to invade.

Lula walked back those remarks on Wednesday and denounced “the violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity”. Brazil has sought to position itself as a peace broker between Russia and Ukraine.

Similarly, Mexico has indicated it would remain neutral in the ongoing war in Ukraine, refusing to join sanctions against Russia.

Mexico has nevertheless backed several United Nations resolutions that favoured Ukraine, including a condemnation of Russia’s attack in March 2022 and a text in October denouncing the “attempted illegal annexation” of territory.

In Thursday’s speech, Zelenskyy thanked Mexico for its backing at the UN. But he pressed Mexican legislators to show “leadership” in pursuing peace and pushing Russia to withdraw its troops.

“I think with Mexico’s help, this could be much quicker,” Zelenskyy said. He renewed his appeal for countries in the region to hold a summit on the issue.

“Ukraine has already proposed to the Latin American community to organise a special summit and show its unity and position on important global principles of territorial integrity, peace and respect between peoples,” he said.

Zelenskyy’s speech was broadcast before Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of its legislature, at the invitation of the congressional friendship group composed largely of politicians from opposition parties.

In the wake of the speech, Morena, the left-wing political party of Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, sought to distance itself from the broadcast.

“The meeting of the Mexico-Ukraine friendship group does not represent a consensual position of the lower house,” it wrote in a statement. Some of the friendship group’s founding members, however, hail from the Morena party.

López Obrador has been critical of United States and its Western allies’ efforts to supply Ukraine with arms, summing up their policy as: “I’ll supply the weapons, and you supply the dead.”

In remarks last June, the Mexican president called the allies’ stance “immoral”, though he avoided naming the US or any other country specifically.

He also speculated at the time: “Couldn’t the war in Ukraine have been avoided? Of course it could.”

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador against a green backdrop
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has been critical of Western allies supplying weaponry to Ukraine [File: Henry Romero/Reuters]

Zelenskyy’s speech on Thursday coincides with the end of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s trip through Latin America this week.

Lavrov met with Brazil’s Lula on Monday, visited Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega on Wednesday and was in Cuba to connect with newly reelected President Miguel Díaz-Canel on Thursday.

The Ukrainian president bemoaned companies and industries that wanted to “make millions by trading with Russia” in Thursday’s speech.

“Unfortunately, the world is full of hypocrisy,” Zelenskyy said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies