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Ukraine president calls leaders who stay neutral populist

MEXICO CITY — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy took a swipe Thursday at leaders who have adopted postures of neutrality regarding the Russian invasion of Ukraine, calling them populists.

Zelenskyy’s comments, in a video link before a committee of Mexican legislators, were an apparent reference to leaders such as Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The Brazilian leader has refused to provide weapons to Ukraine, has appeared to ascribe blame to both sides and has proposed a club of nations including Brazil and China to mediate peace.

Mexico, under President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has voted to condemn the invasion, although it has declined to impose economic sanctions on Russia.

“There are some leaders who have not visited Ukraine once and who have not seen what the brutal Russian aggression brought, and why it is important to defend lives,” Zelenskyy said, adding “but simply seeking to achieve some sort of populism they say things like Ukraine is supposedly not ready to go for peace.”

Zelenskyy also slammed “different companies and big multinational firms that want to make millions by trading with Russia,” adding “unfortunately, the world is full of hypocrisy.”

Earlier this month, Lula told reporters in Abu Dhabi that two nations – Russia and Ukraine – had decided to go to war, and a day earlier in Beijing said the U.S. must stop “stimulating” the continued fighting and start discussing peace.

Lula has also suggested Ukraine could cede Crimea to end the war, something the spokesperson for Ukraine’s foreign ministry, Oleg Nikolenko, and others rejected.

The Ukranian president got an expected standing ovation from the legislators of the Mexico-Ukraine Friendship Group, most of whom belong to opposition parties.

In 2022, López Obrador decried NATO policy of supporting Ukraine, claiming it was equivalent to saying “I’ll supply the weapons, and you supply the dead. It is immoral.”

“How easy it is to say, ’Here, I’ll send you this much money for weapons,” López Obrador said. “Couldn’t the war in Ukraine have been avoided? Of course it could.”

López Obrador did not say how, other than Russia not invading. In 2022, a half-dozen legislators from López Obrador’s Morena party helped create a congressional “Mexico-Russia Friendship Committee.”

The Morena party said “we respect the freedom of thought of our members” after a youth group apparently affiliated with the party sent an open letter to the Russian ambassador supporting the invasion.

Russia has been making a sort of diplomatic push in Latin America this week. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met Wednesday with Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, and the two commiserated about U.S. sanctions.

Lavrov on Thursday met with recently reelected Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, during the last leg of a Latin American tour that took him to Brazil, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

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