Brazil reaffirms ties with Ukraine, as Bolsonaro jets to Russia

In this file photo taken on November 14, 2019 Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) waves next to Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro (R) before the 11th BRICS Summit at the Itamaraty palace in Brasilia. Photo AFP

Brasília, Brazil | Brazil publicly reaffirmed its diplomatic ties with Kyiv on Monday as far-right President Jair Bolsonaro set off on an official visit to Russia amid soaring tensions between Moscow and the West over Ukraine. 

"The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carlos Franca, spoke by phone today with the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba," the foreign ministry said on Twitter shortly before Bolsonaro took off for Russia.

Franca "listened to his counterpart's assessment of the current situation on the border between Ukraine and Russia" and reiterated Brazil's support of a "peaceful resolution" of the crisis, said the ministry, noting that Brazil and Ukraine recently celebrated 30 years of diplomatic ties.

Brushing off pressure from traditional ally the United States and within his own cabinet, Bolsonaro decided to go ahead with meeting Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, a visit he says is about building bilateral trade relations.

Brazil, a major global agricultural producer and exporter, "depends largely on fertilizers from Russia," Bolsonaro said to justify the trip. On Thursday he visits Hungary, led by his ally, the far-right Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Analysts have noted the terrible timing of the trip, coming in the midst of the worst crisis since the Cold War. Western countries fear Russia will invade Ukraine after deploying more than 100,000 troops and huge amounts of military hardware near or on the borders of the former Soviet republic.

Washington has warned that Russia could launch an invasion at any time, something Moscow has repeatedly denied. 

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