Lula, who is leading President Bolsonaro in polls, also said Biden and EU are guilty and could have stated Ukraine would not join Nato
Former president of Brazil Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva gestures during a labour day demonstration. Photograph: Rodrigo Paiva/Getty Images
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Brazilian presidential frontrunner Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has said the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, bear equal responsibility for the war in Ukraine, putting the leftist icon at odds with western powers.
In an interview with Time magazine published on Wednesday, the former president said it was irresponsible for western leaders to celebrate Zelenskiy because they are encouraging war instead of focusing on closed-door negotiations to stop the fighting.
“I see the president of Ukraine, speaking on television, being applauded, getting a standing ovation by all the [European] parliamentarians,” Lula told the magazine.
“This guy [Zelenskiy] is as responsible as Putin for the war,” he added.
Lula, who is on Time’s cover this week, is frontrunner for the October elections when he hopes to deny far-right President Jair Bolsonaro re-election and return to office after the annulment last year of corruption convictions that had put him in jail.
The remarks will probably raise eyebrows in the US and Europe, which are supplying military support to Ukraine and have hit Russia with punishing sanctions over an invasion widely seen in the west as an act of unprovoked Russian aggression.
Lula, 76, said Zelenskiy should have yielded to Russian opposition to Ukraine’s moves to join Nato and held negotiations with Putin to avoid a conflict.
Refering to Zelenskiy’s rise to fame as an actor and comedian, he added: “We should be having a serious conversation. OK, you were a nice comedian. But let us not make war for you to show up on TV.”
The veteran leftist said Biden and European Union leaders failed to do enough to negotiate with Russia in the run-up to its invasion of Ukraine in February.
“The United States has a lot of political clout. And Biden could have avoided war, not incited it,” he said. “Biden could have taken a plane to Moscow to talk to Putin. This is the kind of attitude you expect from a leader.”
The US and EU could have avoided the invasion by stating that Ukraine would not join Nato, he said.
“Putin shouldn’t have invaded Ukraine. But it’s not just Putin who is guilty. The US and the EU are also guilty,” Lula said
Lula, who leads Bolsonaro in the polls for October’s elections, was a key player on the international stage during his two terms as president, building Brazil’s diplomatic clout.
Portraying himself as a bridge-builder, he maintained friendly ties with counterparts as disparate as George W Bush of the US and Hugo Chávez of Venezuela or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran.