People protest outside the embassy of Brazil in Portugal over Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s position on Russia-Ukraine war as he arrives in the country for a state visit in Lisbon, Portugal, April 21, 2023. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes
By Catarina Demony and Miguel Pereira
LISBON (Reuters) – Waving flags and holding photographs depicting conflict atrocities, Ukrainians gathered outside the Brazilian embassy in Lisbon on Friday to protest recent remarks about the Ukraine war made by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Lula, who arrived in Portugal earlier on Friday for a five-day official visit, has angered many in the West for suggesting both Ukraine and Russia were to blame for the conflict that began when Moscow invaded its neighbour in February 2022.
He said last weekend the United States and European allies should stop supplying arms to Ukraine, saying they were prolonging the war.
In recent days, he has toned down his rhetoric, condemning the violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity by Russia, while calling again for mediation to end the war, a peace initiative the Ukrainian government has criticised for treating “the victim and the aggressor” the same way.
Ukrainian refugee Yana Kolomiiets, who has been in Portugal for four months, took part in the protest in Lisbon and said she felt “terrible” when she heard Lula’s comments.
“It has made me so upset because I don’t know how the president of Brazil can support Putin … this killer,” said the 27-year-old.
Two Brazilian officials told Reuters on Thursday that Lula – keen to protect Brazil’s neutrality – was expected to avoid criticism of the Western role in the Ukraine war during his visit to Portugal. He will meet the Portuguese president and prime minister on Saturday.
Outside the embassy, protesters held signs saying “Russia is a terrorist state” and “Stop killing our children”.
“People die in Ukraine every day and we need international support,” said the president of Portugal’s Ukrainian Association, Pavlo Sadokha, describing 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, given to Brazil’s ambassador Raimundo Carreiro and government minister Marcio Macedo.
“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”, Macedo told reporters after receiving the letter.
On Tuesday, Ukraine invited Lula to visit, a day after Lula had met with Russia’s foreign minister in Brasilia.
Asked if the president would visit Ukraine, Macedo said Lula’s foreign policy adviser, Celso Amorim, would go. There was still no fixed date, he said.