Mexico president defends Russia participation in military parade

First test travel of the "Tren Transistmico" passenger train, in southern Mexico

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Monday defended the presence of a Russian military unit in a weekend parade marking Mexico's independence day, following sharp criticism his country had given a platform to forces that invaded Ukraine.

Ukraine's ambassador to Mexico, opposition politicians and critical media blasted the decision to allow a Russian unit to participate on Saturday, but Lopez Obrador said Mexico had allowed any country to join in.

"We have relations with all countries in the world and we invite everyone," Lopez Obrador said at a regular government press conference after noting that the presence of the Russian unit had sparked a "scandal."

Lopez Obrador, a leftist, has sought to keep Mexico neutral in the war between Russia and Ukraine, at one point proposing peace talks.

Nonetheless, his government has backed some major U.N. resolutions criticizing Russia's role in the conflict.

Ukraine's ambassador to Mexico, Oksana Dramaretska, said on X that the parade had been "sullied" by the participation of a Russian unit which she said was "stained with blood."

"How coherent is it Mr. Lopez Obrador with your policy of neutrality and condemnation of aggression against my country?," Dramaretska wrote on the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Russia's embassy in Mexico celebrated the 154th Preobrazhenskiy Regiment's participation in the event.

"Long live the friendship between Mexico and Russia!," the Russian embassy said on X.

Units from Brazil, Chile, China, Venezuela, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Cuba and Nicaragua were among others also taking part.

The participation of Nicaragua also came under criticism, with the central American country's government under fire for cracking down on opposition to President Daniel Ortega. Ortega argues his opponents having been trying to engineer a coup.

Xochitl Galvez, the main opposition candidate for Mexico's 2024 presidential election, slammed Lopez Obrador, saying on X he had "made it clear that his friends are dictators, not democrats."

(Reporting by Valentine Hilaire and Raul Cortes Fernandez; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)