Opposition lawmakers pressured the government on Friday, calling on President Alberto Fernández to take a more critical stance towards Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
In a statement issued Friday, a group of high-profile opposition lawmakers and intellectuals slammed Russia’s “illegitimate attack on Ukraine,” declaring that Putin had “chosen to follow the path of a premeditated war, affecting Ukrainian sovereignty.”
The group, which included PRO leaders Patricia Bullrich and María Eugenia Vidal, among others, called on President Alberto Fernández to issue “a clear and forceful condemnation of Russia's actions” and deliver “the immediate alignment of our country with the West in the formulation of sanctions and actions aimed at restoring peace."
Underlining frustrations at a diplomatic level, the Ukrainian Embassy in Buenos Aires revealed its government was “not satisfied with Argentina’s response” to events in Eastern Europe.
Speaking at a press conference, Ukrainian Chargé d'Affaires in Argentina, Sergiy Nebrat, said the Casa Rosada should “ask Russia to withdraw its troops” and give a “clear signal” that the invasion was unacceptable.
The criticism came less than a day after President Fernández had called on Russia to "put an end to actions taken” in Ukraine “and for all parties involved to return to dialogue."
The remarks, delivered via a thread of posts on social media, were the Argentine leader’s first comments on the Russian invasion, which had begun hours earlier.
"We call on all parties not to use military force. I deeply regret the escalation of war that we are aware of as a result of the situation generated in Ukraine,” said the president, who did not refer to Putin specifically by name.
"Dialogue and respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity, the security of states and human rights guarantee just and lasting solutions to conflicts," added the Frente de Todos leader.
"We call on all parties not to use military force. We call on the Russian Federation to stop the actions taken and for all parties involved to return to the dialogue table,” said Fernández.
Earlier in the day, the government had expressed its "firm rejection of the use of armed force" in Ukraine and called on Russia to "cease military actions," while recommending that Argentines in the area leave the country.
A Foreign Ministry communiqué underlined the need for "full respect for international law … the sovereignty of states and their territorial integrity," insisting that "fair and lasting solutions can only be reached via dialogue."
Asked about the local repercussions of the conflict, Government Spokesperson Gabriela Cerruti forecast at a press conference that the confrontation would generate "an economic crisis" that "will have to be analysed," before making reference to the likely impact on oil and petrol prices.
The official also confirmed that there were a total of 83 Argentines who reside permanently in Ukraine and an additional 20 who are there travelling. Given the current situation, the Foreign Ministry called on them to “laeve Ukrainian territory,” offering the assistance of its Embassy and staff.
According to Casa Rosada sources, around “half of the Argentines living in Ukraine have already expressed that they do not want to leave,” despite the likely arrival of Russian troops.
The government is said to have been surprised by the comments from Nebrat, the Ukrainian diplomat who said Friday he wanted Argentina to issue sanctions on Russian leaders in solidarity with other nations.
"Last night was the most terrible night for Kiev since 1941, since the time of the Second World War, when the capital of Ukraine was invaded by Nazi Germany. It is the first day in the history of the 21st century that a country with nuclear weapons attacked civilian cities in Ukraine," said the diplomat, who met Bullrich and national deputy Graciela Ocaña to discuss the attack and said the Ukrainian government “are not satisfied with the Argentine response.”
Backing that stance, a delegation of 21 European ambassadors and heads of embassies based in Buenos Aires issued a statement condemning "the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation" and reiterating their "unwavering support" for the independence of that country.
Adding his voice to the criticism of the government, former foreign minister Jorge Faurie said that the government's reaction to Russia's military advance against Ukraine had been "poor" and "confusing."
"We were very poor in our reaction, we took a long time, it was confusing at first. We still haven't managed to say that Russia is an aggressor," said Faurie, who served in the 2015-2019 Mauricio Macri government,
He suggested that Argentina act as a regional “interlocutor” to coordinate the Latin American response to the crisis.