Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Lula’s Portugal Visit Sparks Protests over Ukraine Remarks


Protesters have gathered outside the Brazilian embassy in Lisbon, waving flags and holding photographs depicting war atrocities, to express their anger at Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s recent remarks about Russia’s war on Ukraine. Lula’s comments, which implied that both Russia and Ukraine were at fault for the ongoing conflict, have caused outrage among Ukrainians. The Brazilian president arrived in Portugal on Friday for a five-day official visit, during which he is expected to avoid criticism of the Western role in the Ukraine war.

Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, and Lula has been criticised for suggesting that both Kyiv and Moscow are to blame for the conflict. He has also called on the United States and European allies to stop supplying arms to Ukraine, accusing them of prolonging the war. However, in recent days, he has toned down his rhetoric and condemned Russia’s violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, while calling for mediation to end the conflict.

The Ukrainian government has criticised Brazil’s approach for treating “the victim and the aggressor” in the same way. Ukrainian refugee Yana Kolomiiets, who took part in the Lisbon protest, said she felt “terrible” when she heard Lula’s comments. She called Putin a “killer” and questioned how the president of Brazil could support him.

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

Protesters outside the embassy held signs saying “Russia is a terrorist state” and “Stop killing our children”. The president of Portugal’s Ukrainian Association, Pavlo Sadokha, described 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.

Macedo told reporters after receiving the letter that “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”. On Tuesday, Ukraine invited Lula to visit Kyiv, a day after the Brazilian president met with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Brasilia. Macedo said that Lula’s foreign policy adviser, Celso Amorim, would go, but there was still no fixed date for the visit.

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