Brazil’s Lula Injects Himself into Ukraine War, Offers to Mediate Putin-Zelensky Talks

SAO BERNARDO DO CAMPO, BRAZIL - APRIL 07: Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva gestures to supporters at the headquarters of the Metalworkers' Union where a Catholic mass was held in memory of his late wife Marisa Leticia on April 7, 2018 in the Sao Bernardo do Campo section …
Victor Moriyama/Getty Images

Brazil’s radical leftist President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva stated on Monday that, if needed, he would be willing to mediate talks between Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

“If I can help, I will help. But if the need arises to hold talks with Putin and Zelensky, I will be ready to discuss peace settlement efforts, no problem.” Lula said. “What we really need is to bring together a group of people powerful enough to be respected at the negotiating table. And we should engage with both of them.”

Lula made the offer after refusing European requests to help arm Ukraine against the nearly year-long “special operation” Russia launched against Zelensky’s government in February last year. Lula was a close ally of Putin’s during his first two terms as president of Brazil, from 2003 to 2011, and dismissed Zelensky as a “nice comedian” during his campaign to return to power last year.


Jair Bolsonaro (Tercio Teixeira/AFP)

Lula’s predecessor, the conservative Jair Bolsonaro, insisted on maintaining Brazil’s neutrality in the Ukraine invasion and visited Moscow as the eight-year-old war escalated last year.

The Brazilian president gave his remarks during a joint press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who embarked on a three-day tour to Argentina, Chile, and Brazil on Saturday in a bid to forge stronger economic ties and to to rally support for Ukraine.

The Brazilian president asserted to media representatives present at the joint conference that Russia had made a “mistake” in invading Ukraine.

“I think Russia made the classic mistake of invading another country’s territory, so Russia is wrong,” Lula said. “But I still think that when one won’t [fight], two won’t fight. You have to want peace.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin seen during the Navy Day Parade, on July, 31 2022, in Saint Petersburg, Russia. President Vladimir Putin has arrived to Saint Petersburg to review Main Naval Parade involving over 50 military ships on Russia's Navy Day. (Photo by Contributor/Getty Images)

Russian President Vladimir Putin seen during the Navy Day Parade, on July, 31, 2022, in Saint Petersburg, Russia. (Contributor/Getty Images)

Lula refused Germany’s request to provide ammunition to Ukraine for the German-made Gepard anti-aircraft guns. 

“Brazil has no interest in passing the ammunition, so that it can be used in the war between Russia and Ukraine,” the Brazilian president added. “Brazil is a country of peace. Therefore, Brazil does not want to have any participation, even if indirect,” he said, while availing himself of the opportunity to claim that China has an important role to play in prospective peace talks between Ukraine and Russia, a matter that he will discuss in March during his official visit to Beijing.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (L) climbs with head of training at arms manufacturer Krauss-Maffei Juergen Schoch on a German self-propelled anti-aircraft gun Flakpanzer Gepard during a visit of the training program for Ukrainian soldiers on the Gepard anti-aircraft tank in Putlos near Oldenburg, on August 25, 2022. (AXEL HEIMKEN/AFP via Getty Images)

The refusal of Germany’s request follows a one-hour telephone conversation held between the Brazilian president and his french counterpart Emmanuel Macron on Thursday. According to Brazilian news website UOL, Lula expressed to Macron that Brazil would not take part in any war-related operations against Russia but is willing to actively engage in the search for peace through the establishment of negotiations with Russia toward a ceasefire. 

UOL also claimed that, in the conversation, Lula recognized the illegality of Russia’s violation of Ukrainian territory while claiming that NATO’s behavior in recent years had not contributed to guaranteeing a relationship of trust with the Kremlin. Ukraine has long sought membership in NATO but has never been a member and does not appear on track to be so in the near future given the ongoing conflict.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pays his respects to victims of a deadly helicopter crash during a farewell ceremony in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023. Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky, his Deputy Yevhen Yenin, State Secretary Yurii Lubkovych, national police official and the three crew members were killed in a helicopter crash on Wednesday in Kyiv suburbs of Brovary. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pays his respects to victims of a deadly helicopter crash during a farewell ceremony in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, January 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

During his 2022 presidential campaign, Lula stated that Volodymyr Zelensky was just as responsible as Vladimir Putin for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“I see the president of Ukraine, speaking on television, being applauded, getting a standing ovation by all the European parliamentarians,” Lula said in an interview published by Time magazine in May 2022. “This guy [Zelensky] is as responsible as Putin for the war. Because in the war, there’s not just one person guilty.”

Lula reiterated that his country will not send any ammunition to Ukraine through his Twitter account on Monday evening, stating that Brazil is a “country of peace.”

“Brazil has no interest in passing on ammunition to be used in the war between Ukraine and Russia. Brazil is a country of peace,” the post read. “At this moment, we need to find those who want peace, a word that until now has been used very little.”

During the German chancellor’s visit to Argentina, the nation’s far-left President Alberto Fernández stated on Saturday that “Argentina and Latin America are not considering sending weapons to Ukraine or any other place of conflict,” but added that he expected “the end of hostilities as soon as possible.”

“Russia must understand the damage it is causing in the Southern Hemisphere,” Fernández said. 

Unlike his Argentine counterpart, Lula da Silva abstained from directly condemning Russia or Putin for the invasion of Ukraine during the German chancellor’s visit. A joint statement released by the governments of Brazil and Germany stated that they “emphatically deplored Russia’s violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and annexation of parts of its territory as flagrant violations of international law.”

Lula and Putin held a conversation in December in which, according to the Brazilian president, Putin wished him “a good government and the strengthening of the relationship” between Brazil and Russia.

“Today I spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who congratulated me on the electoral victory, wished a good government and the strengthening of the relationship between our countries,” Lula’s wrote. “Brazil has returned, seeking dialogue with everyone and committed to the search for a world without hunger and with peace.”

Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.


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