Brazil’s Lula meets Lavrov amid US barbs on Ukraine stance

Lula has condemned Western efforts to supply Ukraine with weapons, a position that Russia has praised amid its invasion.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov walking past an honour guard after a meeting with Brazil's foreign minister, He is smiling and looks very happy.
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrived in Brazil on Monday {Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters]

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, whose stance on Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine has fuelled consternation in the United States and elsewhere, has met visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Lavrov arrived in the capital Brasilia on Monday, where he discussed issues such as trade and Russia’s war in Ukraine with members of Lula’s administration.

“We are grateful to our Brazilian friends for their clear understanding of the genesis of the situation [in Ukraine]. We are grateful for their desire to contribute to finding ways of settling this situation,” Lavrov told reporters after a meeting with Brazilian Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira.

Seeking to capitalise on Brazil’s tradition of non-intervention and open diplomacy, Lula has pitched himself as a broker for peace talks to end the Ukraine conflict, which began when Russia invaded its neighbour in February 2022.

But he has upset Washington and others stating that several parties are at fault for the war in Ukraine and that the US has “encouraged” the war by sending weapons to the administration of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, echoing the positions taken by Moscow and Beijing.

On Monday, White House National Security spokesperson John Kirby called 77-year-old’s Lula’s comments “simply misguided”.

In Brasilia, a handful of protesters held banners condemning Lavrov’s visit and Russia’s invasion.

Lula’s stance has underscored a split between Ukraine’s largely Western allies and other countries who do not want to choose between relations with Russia and the US, and have refused to distance themselves from Moscow.

In the year following the invasion of Ukraine, for instance, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) voted on a series of resolutions to address the violence, including a call for Russia to withdraw its military and a resolution to condemn the annexation of territory.

But some of the world’s most populous countries — including China, India and Brazil — have abstained from voting in some cases.

One example came on April 7, 2022, when the General Assembly passed a resolution to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council, with 93 votes in favour. But 58 countries abstained and another 24 voted against the proposal. Brazil was among the abstentions.

States like Brazil have also baulked at calls to provide Ukraine with military assistance or cut off trade with Russia.

Some economists see Russia’s economic isolation under Western sanctions as an opportunity to enhance economic relations. And in 2022, Brazil marked a record $9.8bn in bilateral trade with Russia.

On Monday, Lavrov and Vieira discussed plans to increase Brazilian meat exports to Russia and fertiliser imports for Brazilian farmers.

Last week, Lula travelled to China to meet with President Xi Jinping in a bid to bolster economic relations. China has likewise offered support to Russia during its war in Ukraine.

In remarks to journalists as he returned from his trip, Lula said Brazil was “trying to build a group of countries without any involvement in the war, that don’t want the war and defend world peace to have a discussion with both Russia and Ukraine”.

Western countries have been irked by such comments, which they see as a refusal to condemn Russia’s clear violation of international law.

“In this case, Brazil is parroting Russian and Chinese propaganda without at all looking at the facts,” Kirby told reporters on Monday, dismissing Lula’s recent comments as “deeply problematic”.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies