NEW YORK, May 1 (AFP) - A senior US envoy was heading to Brazil on Monday (May 1) in hopes of restoring a budding relationship with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who drew a rebuke by appearing to blame Washington in part over the Ukraine war.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the United Nations, will meet senior officials in Brasilia on Tuesday, with US officials insisting she will focus on broad cooperation between the Western hemisphere's two most populous nations rather than dwelling on Lula's remarks.

She will travel Wednesday to Salvador, the heart of the Afro-Brazilian community, to highlight work to build racial equality in the two multiethnic nations.

Lula drew parallels to President Joe Biden when he took office in January - a political veteran who defeated a right-wing populist whose enraged supporters then resorted to violence in the capital, and who has put a high priority on climate.

The former trade unionist met Biden in a low-key White House visit in February but then made headlines last month on a trip to China where Lula said that the United States, which has sent billions of dollars in weapons to Ukraine, was "encouraging the war".

Lula later clarified that he condemned the invasion, but the White House accused him of "parroting Russian and Chinese propaganda" - and Lula won praise from Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who recently visited Brasilia.

A US official said that Thomas-Greenfield would "check in" with Brazil about the Ukraine war.

"Our position is that a range of countries around the world, Brazil included, can play a positive role in trying to bring this conflict to an end," the official said on customary condition of anonymity.

"But we have to make sure that any peace is a just and durable one" that adheres to the "principles and sovereignty and territorial integrity," he said.

The United States is also asking Brazil to extradite an alleged Russian spy, Sergey Cherkasov, who is said to have pretended to be a Brazilian student in Washington and gathered information on Ukraine.