Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) speaks during a joint press conference with his Brazilian counterpart Mauro Vieira (R) at Itamaraty Palace in Brasilia on April 17, 2023
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) speaks during a joint press conference with his Brazilian counterpart Mauro Vieira (R) at Itamaraty Palace in Brasilia on April 17, 2023 AFP

Russia's foreign minister met in Brazil on Monday with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, as Washington criticized the South American leader's recent remarks on US defense 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 Kyiv shares the blame for the conflict, which began in February 2022 when Russian forces poured into Ukraine in an attempt to overthrow the democratically elected government and annex swaths of the pro-Western country.

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

Sergei Lavrov, Russia's top diplomat, thanked Lula on Monday for his offer to mediate peace talks on the 14-month war.

But the visit, and Lula's recent remarks, sparked criticism from the White House, which has led support for Ukraine.

"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.

He described Lula's message on the war as "deeply problematic."

Brazilian Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira, who also met with his Russian counterpart earlier in the day, shot back, saying: "I don't know how or why he reached that conclusion but I do not agree at all."

Despite Lula's comments about the United States, the 77-year-old, who returned to power in January after serving two terms from 2003 to 2010, is also seeking closer ties with Washington.

His visit to China and the UAE, postponed by a bout of pneumonia, came after a White House meeting in February with US President Joe Biden.

Brazil has not joined Western nations in imposing sanctions on Russia for its invasion, and has refused requests to supply ammunition to Ukraine.

After meeting with his Brazilian counterpart on Monday, Lavrov said: "We are grateful to our Brazilian friends for their clear understanding of the genesis of the situation (in Ukraine). We are grateful for their desire to contribute to finding ways of settling this situation."

"We are interested in resolving the conflict as soon as possible," Lavrov said.

But he added that any solution would have to be based on "multipolarity," accusing the West of "trying to dominate the international arena."

Washington doesn't have "any objection to any country that wants to try to bring an end to the war," Kirby said.

"That could happen right now, today, if Mr (Russian President Vladimir) Putin would stop attacking Ukraine and pull its troops out."

Lavrov's trip to Brazil comes after Lula's top foreign policy adviser, Celso Amorim, met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin in March to discuss opening peace talks.

Brazil is Lavrov's first stop on a weeklong Latin American tour that will also include Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba -- countries whose leftist governments have hostile relations with the United States.

Lavrov and Vieira said their talks had also focused on energy and trade.

About a quarter of agricultural powerhouse Brazil's fertilizer imports come from Russia, while the two countries engaged in a record $9.8 billion in bilateral trade last year.