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Tuesday, September 27, 2022
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Russia Participates in G20 Summit as Ukraine War Looms


U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives for the G20 Foreign Ministers' Summit in Bali, Indonesia | Image by Reuters

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrived at the Indonesian resort island of Bali on Thursday for the Group of 20 (G20) summit, which is expected to be overshadowed by tensions brought on by Russia’s war with Ukraine. The intergovernmental forum’s event runs through Friday.

Indonesia has struggled to strike a balance between hosting the global summit while also dealing with a war-related worldwide food crisis and geopolitical pressures to bring the situation to an end.

Other foreign diplomats arrived in Bali on Thursday with strong security in place in the tropical island’s Nusa Dua region.

Before arriving in Bali, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said that the G20 summit should not be a platform for Russia, given its ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

“It is in the interest of us all to ensure that international law is respected and adhered to. That is the common denominator,” she said in a press release.

Before formal discussions, Lavrov spoke with Wang Yi, his Chinese counterpart. Lavrov will also meet with Turkish officials outside the summit, the Russian foreign ministry said earlier on Thursday.

The summit will mark the first in-person encounter between some of Russia’s most vocal detractors and the top Russian diplomat since the invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow has referred to as a “special military operation.”

Russian news agency TASS reported that Lavrov arrived in Bali intending to visit certain G20 peers outside the summit. However, ministers such as Baerbock, as well as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, have said they will not meet Lavrov.

U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Tuesday, “I’m not in a position to walk through the choreography, but I certainly would not expect any meeting between Secretary Blinken and Foreign Minister Lavrov.”

According to TASS, Lavrov and Blinken are not scheduled to meet, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said.

“Nothing is being planned,” he said. “Given the circumstances, existing contacts via embassies and sporadic telephone calls are quite enough for us to work in detail on current issues [with the U.S.].”

The Group of 20 comprises some of the world’s largest economies. Its Western members have sanctioned Russia (which is also a member) for alleged war crimes in Ukraine, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the UK, the U.S., and the EU, as have Japan and South Korea.

Nations in the group that have taken less firm stances include Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, and summit host Indonesia. Spain is attending as a permanent guest.

The Bali summit will not be “business as usual,” according to some European and American officials. A spokesperson for the German foreign minister said the G7 nations would coordinate their reaction to Lavrov in Bali.

When Russian representatives appeared at a G20 finance meeting in Washington in April, senior members from the UK, Canada, and the U.S. walked out.

Analysts believe Western governments have decided it would be futile to give the floor to Russia, despite early discussion of boycotting upcoming G20 meetings.

The two-day meeting will cover energy and food security, as Russia has been accused of provoking a worldwide food crisis and escalating inflation by obstructing grain supplies from Ukraine. Russia has declared that it is ready to enable unimpeded grain shipments.     

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