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Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. Picture: EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA/REUTERS
Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. Picture: EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA/REUTERS

Nisa Dua, Indonesia — Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov will have his first close encounter with the fiercest critics of his country’s invasion of Ukraine at a Group of 20 (G20) gathering in Indonesia that got under way on Thursday.

Russia’s war in Ukraine and a global food crisis blamed on it are expected to be front and centre of the two-day foreign ministers’ meeting on the island of Bali.

Thursday’s welcome dinner will be the first time President Vladimir Putin’s long-serving foreign minister Lavrov will be up close with the most vocal opponents of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February, which Moscow has called a “special military operation”.

Lavrov plans to meet some of his counterparts on the sidelines of the summit, Russian news agency TASS reported, but ministers including Germany’s Annalena Baerbock and US secretary of state Antony Blinken have ruled out separate meetings with him.

Australian foreign minister Penny Wong said her country and like-minded nations will use the G20 meeting to highlight the impact of the war. “We will be making very clear collectively our views about Russia’s position and Russia’s behaviour,” she said.

British foreign secretary Liz Truss, however, may leave early: the BBC reported she plans to return to London amid the political drama around Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s resignation.

The G20 includes Western countries that have accused Moscow of war crimes in Ukraine — which it denies — and have imposed sanctions, but also countries such as China, Indonesia, India and SA that have been more muted in their response.

Speaking after meeting his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, Lavrov emphasised the importance of Russia-China ties in shaping a more “just and democratic world based on the principles of international law, primarily the UN charter”.

He lashed out at what he said was an “openly aggressive” West “which seeks to maintain its privileged position and dominance in international affairs”.

Some US and European officials have stressed the gathering will not be “business as usual”. A spokesperson for the German foreign minister said Group of Seven (G7) countries will co-ordinate their response to Lavrov.

In 2014, the G7 excluded Russia from what had become the G8, over its annexation of Crimea.

Top officials from Britain, Canada and the US walked out on Russian representatives during a G20 finance meeting in Washington in April. However, despite early talk of boycotting subsequent G20 meetings, some analysts say Western nations may have decided this would be counterproductive.

A senior US state department official said on Thursday it is important to maintain a focus on what Indonesia has set out for its G20 presidency and “not let there be any disruptions or interruptions to that”.

Energy and food security are on the Bali meeting agenda, with Western nations accusing Russia of stoking a global food crisis and worsening inflation by blockading shipments of Ukrainian grain. Russia has said it is ready to facilitate unhindered exports of grain.

In her meeting with China’s Wang, Indonesian foreign minister Retno Marsudi stressed the need to protect regional stability and solve global issues related to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

“The solidity of the voices of developing nations is needed to stop the war, and to reintegrate food exports of Ukraine and Russia into the global supply chain,” Indonesia’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

Reuters

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