White House rebukes Brazil's Bolsonaro for 'solidarity' visit to Moscow

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FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with his Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro during a meeting in Moscow, Russia February 16, 2022. Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS/File Photo

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BRASILIA, Feb 18 (Reuters) - The White House on Friday criticized Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's visit this week to Moscow in the midst of the Ukraine crisis, saying the vast majority of the international community oppose a Russian invasion.

"I think Brazil may be on the other side of where the global community stands," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

On Thursday, the State Department issued a strong rebuke of Bolsonaro's expression of "solidarity" for Russia while visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin.

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With masses of Russian troops near Ukraine's borders raising fears of an invasion, the United States had called on Bolsonaro to put off his trip to Moscow, but he went ahead with it.

On Wednesday, standing alongside Putin, Bolsonaro said in a statement he was "in solidarity with Russia," without elaborating.

"The timing of the president of Brazil expressing solidarity with Russia, just as Russian forces are preparing to launch attacks on Ukrainian cities, could not be worse," a State Department spokesperson said.

"It undermines international diplomacy directed at averting a strategic and humanitarian disaster, as well as Brazil's own calls for a peaceful resolution to the crisis," the text of the statement seen by Reuters said.

Brazilian diplomats told Reuters that Brazil's Foreign Ministry, known as Itamaraty, was taken by surprise by the strong State Department rebuke, which they found out about through the media.

"How do you respond to a text that you do not have," one diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity since he was not authorized to discuss the matter.

"Our contacts with the State Department are frequent and always friendly on the bilateral agenda. They are not guided by anonymous statements circulated in the press," he said.

The U.S. comments amounted to unusually brusque criticism of the government of Latin America's largest country, with which the United States usually has cordial relations.

Bolsonaro was a strong ideological ally of former president Donald Trump and relations have cooled under the administration of President Joe Biden, amid ructions over climate change and other issues.

"This is a matter of Brazil, as an important country, seeming to ignore armed aggression by a large power against a smaller neighbor country, a posture inconsistent with Brazil's historical emphasis on peace and diplomacy," the State Department said. read more

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Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu; Writing by Anthony Boadle; editing by Diane Craft

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