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Russia attends G20 meeting set to be dominated by Ukraine conflict

Crowd, Person, Human Russian Foreign Ministry/Handout via REUTERS

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has flown into Indonesia’s resort island of Bali for a meeting of G20 foreign ministers, which is set to be overshadowed by tensions triggered by the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

The G20 gathering runs until Friday in host country Indonesia, which this year has grappled with the balancing act of running a global summit buffeted by geopolitical pressures and a global food crisis blamed on the war.

There was tight security on Thursday in Bali’s Nusa Dua area, where the summit is being held, as foreign diplomats descended on the tropical island for the meeting.

Speaking ahead of her arrival in Bali, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Russia must not be allowed to use the G20 meeting as a platform given its war 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,” Baerbock said in a statement.

The summit will see the first face-to-face meeting between President Vladimir Putin’s long-serving foreign minister Lavrov and some of Russia’s biggest critics since the invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow has called a “special military operation”.

Lavrov had arrived in Bali and planned to meet some G20 counterparts on the sidelines of the summit, Russian news agency TASS reported, but ministers including Baerbock and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken have ruled out meeting Lavrov.

The Group of 20 includes Western countries that have accused Moscow of war crimes in Ukraine and rolled out sanctions, but also countries like China, Indonesia, India and South Africa that have been more muted in their response.

Some officials from Europe and the United States have stressed the Bali summit would not be “business as a usual”, with a spokesperson for the German foreign minister saying G7 countries would coordinate their response to Lavrov in Bali.

Top officials from Britain, Canada and the United States walked out on Russian representatives during a G20 finance meeting in Washington in April.

Despite early talk of boycotting subsequent G20 meetings, analysts say Western nations appear to have decided it would be counterproductive to cede the floor to Russia.

Discussion of energy and food security are on the agenda in the two-day meeting, with Russia accused of stoking a global food crisis and worsening inflation by blockading shipments of Ukrainian grain. Russia has said it ready to facilitate unhindered exports of grain.