Brazilian presidential front-runner Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin bear equal responsibility for the war in Ukraine, putting the leftist icon at odds with Western powers.
"I see the president of Ukraine, speaking on television, being applauded, getting a standing ovation by all the [European] parliamentarians," Lula, Brazil's president from 2003 to 2010, told Time magazine, which published a story Wednesday on his bid to stage a presidential come-back in elections against far-right President Jair Bolsonaro.
"This guy [Zelensky] is as responsible as Putin for the war," he added.
The remarks will likely raise eyebrows in the United States 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 Zelensky should have yielded to Russian opposition to Ukraine's moves to join NATO and held negotiations with Putin to avoid a conflict.
Referencing the Ukrainian leader'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."
He also had criticism for US President Joe Biden. "Biden could have taken a plane to Moscow to talk to Putin. This is the kind of attitude you expect from a leader," he 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 United States and Hugo Chávez of Venezuela or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran.