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Putin to skip G20 Summit citing Ukraine war

DECCAN CHRONICLE | Sridhar Kumaraswami

Published on: August 25, 2023 | Updated on: August 25, 2023

Russian President Vladimir Putin

New Delhi: In a significant disappointment for India, Russia announced on Friday that President Vladimir Putin would not attend the G20 Summit in New Delhi in September. Moscow cited its ongoing "special military operation" in Ukraine as the primary focus. It remains uncertain who will represent Russia at the G20 Summit, but Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, who represented Moscow at the last G20 Summit in Bali, hosted by Indonesia in November last year, could be a likely choice. It's also unclear whether President Putin will participate virtually in the G20 Summit, similar to his recent participation at the Brics Summit in South Africa, where Russian foreign minister Lavrov represented Moscow in person. President Putin is the first G20 member-nation leader to publicly confirm his physical absence from the Delhi Summit. There has been no public confirmation yet from Beijing regarding Chinese President Xi Jinping's attendance, while the United States has confirmed that President Joe Biden will participate in the Summit.

"(Russian President Vladimir) Putin is not planning a trip to the G20 Summit in India, which will be held in September. The main emphasis now is a special military operation," stated Dmitry Peskov, the Russian President's spokesperson, on Friday in Moscow.

President Putin's last visit to New Delhi was in December 2021 for the India-Russia annual dialogue, just two and a half months before Russia initiated its military offensive in Ukraine in February 2022. President Putin had intended to visit Delhi in July this year for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit, but India held the SCO Summit in virtual mode. President Putin also participated virtually in the SCO Summit.

It should be noted that President Putin faced a challenge in June this year following the armed rebellion of Yevgeny Prigozhin, the chief of the mercenary Wagner group, which ultimately fizzled out after Prigozhin called off the march of his fighters toward the Russian capital. Prigozhin was reportedly killed in a plane crash in Russia on Wednesday.

Additionally, Russia has consistently rejected references to the Ukraine conflict in the outcome documents of various G20 meetings in India leading up to the Summit. On Friday, just two weeks before the G20 Summit in Delhi, both Russia and China rejected references to the Ukraine conflict at the conclusion of the two-day G20 Trade and Investment Ministers' Meeting (TIMM) in Jaipur. As a result, India had to label the paragraph condemning the Ukraine conflict as the "Chair's Summary." These developments raise questions about whether there will be a Joint Statement at the Summit next month that all G20 nations, including Russia and China, can agree upon.

After the TIMM on Friday, India stated that Russia "rejected the inclusion of geopolitical Para 32, on the basis that it does not conform to the G20 mandate and recognises the status of the Para 32 as Chair’s Summary," while Russia agreed with the rest of the text. New Delhi also noted that "China stated that the G20 TIMM is not the right forum to discuss geopolitical issues and did not support the inclusion of the geopolitical-related content."

The paragraph in question, now termed the Chair's Summary by India after the TIMM in Jaipur and opposed by both Moscow and Beijing, says, "This year, we have also witnessed the war in Ukraine, which has further adversely impacted the global economy. There was a discussion on this issue. We reiterated our national positions as expressed in other fora, including the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly, which in Resolution No. ES-11/1 dated 2nd March 2022, as adopted by a majority vote (141 votes for, 5 against, 35 abstentions, 12 absent), deplores in the strongest terms the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine and demands its complete and unconditional withdrawal from the territory of Ukraine."

The paragraph continued, "Most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine and stressed that it is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy by constraining growth, increasing inflation, disrupting supply chains, heightening energy and food insecurity crisis, and elevating financial stability risks. There were other views and different assessments of the situation and sanctions. Recognising that G20 is not the forum to resolve security issues, we acknowledge that security issues can have significant consequences for the global economy."