Brazil welcomes Russian minister prompts US backlash

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov thanked Brazil’s approach Monday for ending hostilities in Ukraine — an effort that irked Kiev and the West, prompting unusually strong condemnation late in the afternoon. From the White House.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has refused to supply arms to Ukraine, while proposing to mediate a club of countries including Brazil and China.

On Sunday, Lula told reporters in Abu Dhabi that two countries – both Russia and Ukraine – had decided to go to war, and a day earlier in Beijing that the US should stop “inciting” the fighting. And start discussing peace. Earlier this month, he suggested Ukraine could cede Crimea to end the warThis was rejected by Oleg Nikolenko, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, and others.

After meeting with Brazil’s foreign minister on Monday, Lavrov told reporters in a short press conference that the West was engaged in a “hard struggle” to maintain its hegemony in world affairs, including the economy and geopolitics.

“Regarding the process in Ukraine, we are grateful to our Brazilian friends for their better understanding of the origins of this situation. We are grateful (to them) for trying to contribute to finding ways to resolve it,” Lavrov said, sitting with his Brazilian counterpart Mauro Vieira.

Lula’s recent comments, particularly placing any blame on Ukraine for Russia’s February 2022 invasion, are at odds with the positions of the European Union, the United States and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. And any talk of a ceasefire is seen as an opportunity for Russia to regroup its forces for a new offensive. Zelenskyy told The Associated Press last month A loss anywhere at this point in the war could jeopardize Ukraine’s hard-fought momentum.

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Vieira, for his part, told reporters that Brazil considers sanctions against Russia to have negative implications for the global economy, especially for developing countries, and that Brazil supports an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine.

Following the meeting, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby criticized Brazil’s approach to the war, saying its officials have met in person with Lavrov and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, and so far have only spoken by phone with Ukrainian officials.

“The United States and Europe are somehow not interested in peace or that we share responsibility for war,” Kirby told reporters in Washington. “In this case, Brazil parrots Russian and Chinese propaganda without looking at the facts.”

Kirby said the Biden administration hoped Lula and others would urge the Russians to “stop the bombing of Ukrainian cities, hospitals and schools, stop war crimes and atrocities and, frankly, withdraw Russian forces from Ukraine.”

In the afternoon, the two foreign ministers met Lula.

As part of his bid to end the war, Lula has also halted munitions to Ukraine, defying demands from German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Lula has said sending the goods would mean Brazil is entering a war, which he wants to end.

His administration has sought to simultaneously develop ties with China, Europe and the United States while keeping an open door to Russia. However, his recent comments may have undermined his effort to protect these competing objectives, said Christopher Garman, managing director of the Eurasia Group, a US political risk consultancy.

“It’s not a good look when you have the Russian president side by side, that’s the Russian position,” Garman said by phone. “Optics undermines Brazil’s credibility as an independent arbiter, but I think the import is large precisely because of the current storms that Lula has fueled with his comments in China and the United Arab Emirates.”

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There were already signs that Moscow appreciated Lula’s position. In one of about 50 classified documents leaked on the Discord site seen by the AP, in late February Russia’s Foreign Ministry supported Lula’s plan to establish a club of impartial mediators because it “rejects the West’s paradigm of aggressor-victim.” The item cited electronic surveillance as evidence.

Critics argued that Brazil’s stance was aimed at avoiding confrontation with major suppliers of fertilizer to its soybean plantations., from which exports are mostly destined for China. Both Russia and China are at the UN. They have permanent seats on the Security Council, and Brazil has sought to join them for decades. Lavrov told reporters on Monday that Russia supports Brazil’s bid.

Vinicius Vieira, professor of international relations at the university and think tank Getulio Vargas Foundation, said Lula’s comments on Ukraine were “poorly calibrated” and that telling Kiev to give up Crimea would favor Russia.

“The issue of fertilizers is fundamental, but it can be better solved by Brazil being neutral, inviting all parties to talk, but not saying that Ukraine owes Russia something,” Vieira said.

After his stay in Brazil, Lavrov will visit Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua.

In an article published on the website of the Russian Foreign Ministry and in the Brazilian newspaper Folha de S.Paulo, Lavrov put the trade relationship of Latin American countries – especially between Russia and Brazil, especially with regard to fertilizers – into a background. And a foreign source for possible discussions about Brazil’s continued refusal to supply arms to Ukraine, which Moscow wants to ensure.

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Brazil’s foreign minister told reporters that Russia accounts for a quarter of the South American country’s fertilizer imports, and that he and Lavrov discussed measures to guarantee its arrival.

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Madani said from Washington. AP video journalist Kostya Manenkov contributed from Tallinn, Estonia, and journalist Elise Morton contributed from London.

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