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Live blog: Brazil rejects US criticism, defends Russia ties

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Brazil pushed back against US criticism that President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is parroting Russian and Chinese propaganda on the Ukraine conflict as he held talks with Moscow’s top diplomat. 

Lula’s meeting with Sergei Lavrov in Brasilia follows state visits to China and the Middle East, during which Lula said the United States should “stop encouraging war and start talking about peace” in Ukraine.

He also stated Kiev shares the blame for the conflict, which began when Russian forces poured into Ukraine in February 2022.

In the Brazilian capital, Lavrov thanked Lula for his discussions last week on seeking to help mediate peace talks.

But Lula’s recent remarks on Ukraine sparked criticism from the White House.

“In this case, Brazil is parroting Russian and Chinese propaganda without at all looking at the facts,” US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

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1614 GMT  Poland, Ukraine agree on deal to allow Ukrainian grain transit: minister

Poland and Ukraine have struck a deal to allow Ukrainian grain to transit through Poland after Warsaw banned imports in response to protests from farmers.

“We have managed to set up mechanisms that will mean that not even a tonne of grain remains in Poland. The goods will transit through Poland,” Agriculture Minister Robert Telus said following talks in Warsaw with Ukrainian officials.

1548 GMT — Moscow warns US against ‘subversive activity’ in Russia

Russia has warned US ambassador Lynne Tracy that it would quash attempts to “incite discord” in the country, the foreign ministry in Moscow said in a statement. 

Tracy was summoned to the ministry over “provocative statements ‘in support'” of opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza, who was on Monday sentenced to 25 years in prison. 

“It was emphasised that any steps taken by the American side aimed at inciting discord and enmity in Russian society, as well as using the diplomatic mission to cover up subversive work, will be severely suppressed,” the ministry said.

1424 GMT — Russia says Ukraine peace plans from other countries that consider its interests ‘deserve attention’

Any peace proposal for the Ukraine war from third countries that takes into account Moscow’s interests “deserves attention,” the Kremlin has said.

“Of course, they should be heard, and Russia is ready to do this. For us, the main thing is to ensure our own interests,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said at a news briefing.

On Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s proposal, he said it was too early to make any assessments.

“It’s too early to give any assessments because you still need to have information, know the nuances. And our foreign minister (Sergey Lavrov) now has the opportunity to get these nuances,” Peskov said.

1237 GMT — Zelenskyy visits the frontline Ukraine town of Avdiivka

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has visited the heavily shelled frontline town of Avdiivka in the country’s east, his official website said.

Zelenskyy visited “advanced positions” in the town close to the Russian-occupied city of Donetsk, and wished troops a happy Orthodox Easter, the website said. 

Zelenskyy was pictured sitting with soldiers at a table laid with traditional Easter cakes. Orthodox Easter was celebrated on Sunday.

The visit was announced hours, after the Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin had on Monday, visited two frontline regions.

1215 GMT — Switzerland’s president rejects ammunition exports to Ukraine

President Alain Berset on Tuesday rejected calls for Switzerland to allow ammunition exports to Ukraine, citing the country’s long-held principle of neutrality.

Speaking at a joint news conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin, Berset said his government strongly condemned Russia’s war on Ukraine and regards it as a grave violation of international law.

However, he also underlined that Switzerland cannot provide military support to either side in a conflict, due to its neutrality and corresponding laws.

1205 GMT — Moscow summons western envoys over ‘gross interference’

Moscow said on Tuesday it had summoned the US, British and Canadian ambassadors for “gross interference” in Russia’s domestic affairs.

Russia’s foreign ministry did not say precisely why the envoys were called in, but Moscow already blasted them for their statement denouncing a 25-year sentence against Kremlin critic Vladimir Kara-Murza on Monday.

The ambassadors were summoned for “gross interference in Russia’s internal affairs and activities that do not correspond to their diplomatic status,” the foreign ministry said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies.

1130 GMT — Russian official hits back at G7 demanding nuclear guarantees

A Russian security official hit back at a joint statement by the foreign ministers of the Group of Seven (G7) calling on Russia to give guarantees about refraining from the use of nuclear weapons.

“They demand that Russia give them some guarantees about nuclear weapons, but in fact, they are hinting at a future nuclear conflict between our country and NATO,” deputy head of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev said in a message on Telegram.

Medvedev further accused the G7 of being “liars,” claiming “they use nuclear weapons, but do not repent.”

1100 GMT — Russian shelling kills one, wounds nine in Ukraine’s Kherson: governor  

A Russian artillery attack killed one person and injured nine more in the city of Kherson in southern Ukraine, regional officials said.

“The terrorist state launched an attack on peaceful Kherson residents. One person died. Nine people from Kherson are injured. Our heroic doctors are fighting for their lives and health,” Oleksandr Prokudin, the governor, said on Telegram.

Officials said a market in the city centre had been hit.

1052 GMT — Ukraine denies ship inspections have restarted under the Black Sea grain deal

Ukraine denied that Russian inspectors had restarted ship inspections under the Black Sea grain deal.

“Nothing has been resolved. There are no inspections,” a senior Ukrainian official who asked not to be identified told Reuters.

Russia’s RIA news agency reported earlier that inspections of ships moving grains from Ukraine had restarted, citing a senior Russian foreign ministry official.

0540 GMT — Putin visits military headquarters in Kherson

Russian President Vladimir Putin has visited military headquarters and attended a military command meeting in Ukraine’s Kherson region which is partly held by Russia, the Kremlin said.

Putin received a briefing from commanders of the airborne forces and the “Dnieper” army group as well as other senior officers, it said in a statement.

Putin has also visited the national guard headquarters in Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region, another part of Ukraine that Moscow annexed last year. 

The Kremlin did not say when Putin attended the meetings.

0414 GMT — Ship inspections restart under Ukraine grain deal: RIA

Inspections of ships moving grains from Ukraine have restarted after a pause which threatened to shut down the Black Sea shipping corridor, the RIA news agency cited the Russian foreign ministry as saying.

A ministry official quoted by RIA blamed the interruption on Ukraine’s failure to observe agreed procedures but said the issue has been resolved.

Kiev said the Türkiye-brokered initiative allowing the safe Black Sea export of Ukrainian grain was in danger of shutting down after Russia blocked inspections of participating ships in Turkish waters.

It remains unclear if the grain deal, in place since last July, will be renewed, as Russia complains another agreement, aimed at facilitating its own agricultural and fertilizer exports, has not been upheld.

0401 GMT — G7 vows to intensify sanctions on Russia over war in Ukraine

Top diplomats from the Group of Seven wealthy democracies vowed a unified front against Russia’s war in Ukraine, saying at the close of their meetings that they were committed to boosting and enforcing tough sanctions against Moscow. 

It was Russia’s attacks on Ukraine that highlighted the three-day summit in this hot spring resort town.

“There can be no impunity for war crimes and other atrocities such as Russia’s attacks against civilians and critical civilian infrastructure,” the ministers said. 

“We remain committed to intensifying sanctions against Russia, coordinating and fully enforcing them,” the communique said, and would support Ukraine “for as long as it takes.”

0248 GMT — Russia’s Lavrov meets Lula as Brazil, US trade barbs on Ukraine war

Russia’s foreign minister met in Brazil with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, as Washington criticised the South American leader’s recent remarks on US defence support for Ukraine.

Lula is fresh off a trip to China and the United Arab Emirates, during which he raised eyebrows in the West by accusing the United States of “encouraging the war” in Ukraine.

He also said the United States and Europe “need to start talking about peace,” and that Kiev shares the blame for the conflict, which began in February 2022.

His remarks echoed a line frequently used by Moscow and Beijing, which blame the West for the war.

For our live updates from Monday (April 17), click here.

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