Opposition Leader Godwin Friday says it appears as if St. Vincent and the Grenadines is being used “like propaganda for Russia”.
He was responding to the talks that Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves held in Venezuela last week Tuesday, April 18, with Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, where they discussed the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“The image of that at this time is as if we are becoming like propaganda for Russia,” Friday said on his weekly radio show on NICE Radio.
“This is something that we can’t afford for the image of our country and for the prime minister of our country,” he said.
“The opposition leader said that he knows that SVG has to “deal with countries all over the world”, adding, “but to have a situation where you’re standing up there and making joint statements at a time when the real matter of serious concern in that country is the invasion of Ukraine by Russia and the continuing war there, I hope that was a matter that was the first matter of discussion, but it didn’t come out in any of what I saw in that article”.
Gonsalves spoke about the meeting at a press conference in Kingstown on Thursday, but the Russian Foreign Ministry tweeted and issued a statement about it meeting on the day it occurred.
“You can’t just be standing up there and saying that you are friends and so on with countries and showing your political leanings, leftist political leanings one way or another.
“In those situations, you have to look out for the interests of the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines irrespective of your own personal feelings.”
The opposition leader said that SVG “certainly we will hear more about” the meeting.
“And I want to know how is it that you didn’t hear him, Ralph, bragging about it and talking about it, as he normally does? And this is a situation that we have to monitor very carefully to make sure that our name of the country, of St. Vincent and Grenadines is not a squandered and we don’t be perceived as being closely aligned with a government that 143 nations at the UN condemned its referendum and annexation of part of Ukraine territory, even St. Vincent and the Grenadines voted for that resolution,” Friday said.
“So why are we then now seeming to give political cover or propaganda to Russia by having these joint meetings and declarations from St. Vincent and Grenadines. That is something we have to look at very carefully and you’ll hear me speak more about it as I look at the circumstances more thoroughly.”
In his press statement last Thursday, Gonsalves noted that Lavrov was touring Latin America and held talks in Brazil with President Lula da Silva “about putting together what you call a club of countries of and for peace to see if we can have the matter, this war in Ukraine…”
The prime minister said the Russia-Ukraine war is “going on too long and there is too much suffering there by the combatants, too much money is spent on it by NATO, lives lost, injuries, dislocations and the knock-on effect of what is taking place there and the sanctions which follow, the knock-on economic effect — rising prices, rising interest rates, making life harder for people”.
Gonsalves said the ongoing conflict, which began in February 2022, “is a matter of great importance and I have organised that I can go and speak to the foreign minister of the Russian Federation precisely on this very question of peace”.
He travelled to Venezuela from Trinidad, where he and other CARICOM leaders met for a two-day symposium on crime in the 15-member bloc.
“We had a discussion early Tuesday morning in Trinidad, a breakfast meeting of CARICOM heads where we were discussing several issues and Ukraine and Haiti came on the agenda and I had indicated that I was having this meeting and they were very pleased,” Gonsalves said.
He said he would report to CARICOM heads when they meet virtually on Thursday.
“I will report as to the discussion which I had with Mr. Lavrov and I will also report to my colleague heads in CELAC as to that particular discussion. So those meetings were very important with a lot of practical consequences for us,” Gonsalves said.
Meanwhile, in a statement after the meeting, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Gonsalves and Lavrov “stressed the inadmissibility of unilateral sanctions…
“The two sides stressed the fundamental rejection of the policy of unilateral sanctions imposed in violation of the principles and norms of international law, reaffirmed the commitment to forming a multipolar world based on genuine equality, and mutual respect for the interests of states.”
Gonsalves and Lavrov discussed the outlook for developing bilateral relations, as well as key issues on the international and regional agenda,” the statement said.
“The mutual interest in increasing bilateral cooperation in various areas was confirmed,” the foreign ministry added.
Lavrov visited the Venezuelan capital on Tuesday, flying there from Brazil, the first leg of his Latin American tour that began on Monday.
During his visit to Caracas, Lavrov met with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, Foreign Minister Ivan Gil and Executive Vice President Delcy Rodriguez.