BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on Tuesday denounced Russia’s violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and again called for mediation to end the war, a peace initiative criticized by the Ukrainian government.
Lula, speaking at a lunch with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, said a group of neutral countries should cooperate to help broker peace between Russia and Ukraine.
His comments came after he blew up a storm among the Western allies by saying over the weekend that they were prolonging the fighting by supplying arms to Ukraine.
A White House spokesman accused Lula of “repeating Russian and Chinese propaganda without looking at the facts.” And on Tuesday, the White House said Lula’s “tone was not neutral.”
In Washington, a person familiar with the matter said U.S. officials have made privately clear the Biden administration’s displeasure to their Brazilian counterparts about Lula’s criticism of arming Ukraine. The White House did not immediately respond to a Reuters question about the alleged communications.
Lula’s foreign policy advisor, Celso Amorim, joined the war of words, calling the US criticism “ridiculous” and insisting that Brazil does not share Russia’s position.
“Brazil defends Ukraine’s territorial integrity,” Amorim told Globo TV. But, he added, “As long as there are no talks, the perfect peace for Ukrainians and Russians will not happen. There must be compromises.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Lula in Brasilia on Monday and thanked him for his peace efforts, noting that Brazil and Russia exchanged views on the year-old conflict in Ukraine.
Lula has presented himself as a peace broker to end the war, which began when Russia invaded the neighboring country in February 2022. His proposal, building on Brazil’s tradition of non-intervention and neutrality, calls for a group of countries not involved in the war to include both Russia and Ukraine in talks.
Ukraine criticized Lula’s proposal for treating the “victim and the aggressor” in the same way, and on Tuesday invited the Brazilian president to the war-torn country to see for himself the consequences of the Russian invasion.
Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said Ukraine was following with interest Lula’s efforts to find a solution to the war. But he rejected the view he expressed, had it not been for the weekend, that countries that arm Kiev are prolonging the war.
The EU also rejected Lula’s suggestion that Ukraine and Russia take responsibility for the war. Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs of the European Union Peter Stano said all aid was aimed at Ukraine’s “legitimate defense”.
Lula said Russia should return the lands it occupied last year, but hinted that Ukraine might sacrifice Crimea, which Russian forces occupied in 2014, a proposal rejected by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Zelensky urged world leaders to adopt his 10-point peace plan which, along with a call for the withdrawal of Russian forces and a cessation of hostilities, proposes restoring Ukraine’s original border with Russia.
(Reporting by Anthony Bodel) Editing by Brad Haynes and Jonathan Otis
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