BRASILIA (Reuters) – Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said Russia never should have invaded Ukraine, but he believes Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is as much to blame for the war as Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
In an interview with Time magazine published on Wednesday, the leftist leader also said U.S. President Joe Biden could have done more to prevent the conflict instead of inciting it.
Lula, who is on Time’s cover this week, is front-runner 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.
Lula said it is 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,” he told Time.
“This guy is as responsible as Putin for the war. Because in the war, there’s not just one person guilty,” he added.
Lula 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 United States and European Union 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 U.S. and the EU are also guilty,” Lula said.
(Reporting by Peter Frontini in Brasilia; Editing by Matthew Lewis)