Russia condemns Western ‘blackmail, threats’ over Ukraine war at G-20 meeting

Thursday’s G20 meeting in New Delhi led to an uproar after Russia accused the West of “blackmail and threats” against other countries.

India wanted its G20 presidency this year to focus on issues such as poverty alleviation and climate finance, but Russia’s war with Ukraine has so far pushed out other agenda items.

The meeting in New Delhi saw US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the same room for the first time since July, but the two men were unlikely to hold talks.

The United States has accused China of considering supplying arms to its Russian ally, and Western representatives will use the foreign ministers’ summit to discourage Beijing from interfering in the conflict.

But after the meeting between Lavrov and Chinese counterpart Qin Gang on the sidelines of the G-20 meeting, Russia issued a strongly worded statement.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said “a unanimous disapproval was expressed at attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, to impose a unilateral approach through blackmail and threats, and to oppose the democratization of international relations.”

Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares on Thursday said the Group of 20 meeting in India was unlikely to reach a common statement following Lavrov’s comments.

“After the speech by the Russian foreign minister, I don’t think Russia is ready to accept an acceptable statement,” Albares told reporters.

It was not clear what Lavrov said at the closed-door meeting, but the Russian Foreign Ministry said ahead of his arrival that he would use the platform to lambast Western countries over the conflict.

“The destructive policy of the US and its allies has already brought the world to the brink of disaster,” the ministry said on Tuesday.

‘Zero Evidence’

Blinken said he has no plans to meet either the Russian or Chinese foreign ministers at the G20 meeting.

The last time Blinken and Lavrov were in the same room at the G20 meeting in Bali in July, Lavrov stormed out, according to Western officials.

Blinken used his address to demand Moscow renew a UN-brokered deal allowing exports of Ukrainian grain, which had helped prop up global food prices, to expire this month.

“Russia has deliberately and systematically slowed its pace of inspections, creating a backlog of ships that could be delivering food to the world today,” he said, according to his prepared remarks.

Last month, Blinken had a fiery face-off with Wang Yi, top diplomat in Germany, after the United States shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon over its east coast on February 4.

‘Deep Global Divide’

Opening the meeting, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has refused to condemn Russia’s invasion, called on the G20 to set aside differences over Ukraine.

“The experience of the last few years – financial crisis, climate change, pandemics, terrorism and war – clearly shows that global governance has failed,” Modi said.

“We are meeting at a time of deep global division… We all have our own positions and our perspectives on how these tensions can be resolved. However, as the world’s leading economies, we also have a responsibility to People who are not in this room,” he said.

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna called on the G20 to “respond clearly” to the war as it did during the Bali meeting last year.

In his address to the meeting, he said the conflict was a “dirty war, waged in violation of all the laws of war and of common humanity”.

A meeting of G20 finance ministers in Bengaluru last week failed to agree on a common statement after Russia and China sought to tone down the language on the war.

While India has not condemned the Ukraine invasion, Modi told Russian President Vladimir Putin last year that this was “not the time for war”, comments seen as a rebuke to Moscow.

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