THE ASSOCIATED PRESSA contingent of Russian soldiers march in the annual Independence Day military parade through the Zocalo of Mexico City, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s president on Monday defended the participation of a contingent of Russian soldiers in a military parade over the weekend.
The presence of the Russian contingent in the Independence parade Saturday drew criticism because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Mexico has condemned the invasion but has adopted a policy of neutrality and has refused to participate in sanctions as it continues to buy 2020-vintage COVID vaccines from Russia.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador noted that a contingent from China also participated, and said that all the countries Mexico has diplomatic relations with were invited.
López Obrador acknowledged the issue became “a scandal,” but attributed it to his ongoing spat with the news media, which he believes is against him.
“The Chinese were also in the parade, and there wasn’t so much outcry,” López Obrador said, noting a Russian contingent had participated in the past, although at times when that country was not actively invading its neighbor.
“All the countries that Mexico has diplomatic relations with were invited,” he said.
However, Ukraine’s Ambassador to Mexico, Oksana Dramaretska, wrote in her social media accounts that “The civic-military parade in Mexico City was stained by the participation of a Russian regiment; the boots and hands of these war criminals are stained with blood.”
Some members of López Obrador’s Morena party have publicly expressed affection for Russia even after the invasion, and López Obrador has frequently criticized the United States for sending arms to Ukraine.
López Obrador’s administration has continued to buy Russia’s Sputnik COVID vaccine and intends to use it as a booster shot later this year, along with Cuba’s Abdala vaccine.
Experts have questioned the use of those vaccines, along with Mexico’s own Patria vaccine, as a booster for new variants, because all of them were designed in 2020 to combat variants circulating at the time.