Brazil’s Lula backtracks on comment that Putin can attend Rio G20 without fear of arrest

In a surprising turn of events, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has backtracked on his earlier statement suggesting that Russian President Vladimir Putin could attend the upcoming G20 summit in Rio de Janeiro without facing the risk of arrest.

Lula’s initial comments raised eyebrows internationally, considering the International Criminal Court (ICC) had issued a warrant for Putin’s arrest over alleged war crimes in Ukraine. As a signatory to the Rome Statute, Brazil is obligated to cooperate with the ICC. However, Lula appeared to downplay these concerns during an interview with an Indian journalist.

On the sidelines of India’s G20 in New Delhi last weekend, Lula remarked, “There was no reason Putin would be detained if he traveled to the November 2024 summit in Brazil.”

This statement contradicted Brazil’s Foreign Minister, Mauro Vieira, who had previously suggested that Putin could face ‘issues’ if he traveled to any ICC member state.

Amidst growing outcry and concern, Lula clarified his stance on Monday, stating, “If Putin decides to go to Brazil, it’s the justice system that will take the decision over whether he should be arrested, not the government or Congress. I didn’t even know this court existed.”

Brazil’s conflicted stance on Ukraine

Lula’s refusal to take a clear stance in the Ukraine-Russia conflict has drawn criticism from Western leaders who support Ukraine’s fight against Russia. Instead, Lula has positioned himself as a potential peace broker between Moscow and Kyiv, advocating for neutrality among some countries as a means to achieve peace. He stated, “I think everyone is starting to realize that humanity is growing tired of this war; people are growing tired.”

However, some speculate that Brazil’s reluctance to take sides may be influenced by its heavy reliance on Russian fertilizer for its agribusiness sector. Approximately a quarter of Brazil’s fertilizer imports come from Russia.

International Reaction Oliver Stuenkel, an international relations specialist from the Getúlio Vargas Foundation in São Paulo, criticized Lula’s comments about not arresting Putin as ‘damaging and unnecessary’. He expressed doubt about Putin’s attendance, stating, “Putin was never going to come to Brazil anyways,” and suggested that Lula appeared “inexperienced and ignorant” in his handling of the situation.

Lula disclosed that he plans to attend next year’s BRICS summit in Russia before the G20 summit. It’s worth noting that his far-right predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro, visited Putin in Moscow just days before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

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