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Russia faces Ukraine heat as G20 foreign ministers meet

July 8, 2022

Russia's top diplomat Sergei Lavrov is leaving the meeting early, according to reports. His US counterpart Anthony Blinken made a direct appeal for Moscow to unblock Ukraine grain exports, saying "It's not your country."

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi seen on a large screen, speaking at the G20 meeting in bali
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi gave opening remarks to the G20 meeting on FridayImage: Dita Alangkara/AP/picture alliance

The foreign ministers of the Group of 20 (G20) countries are attending a joint summit on Friday on the Indonesian island of Bali, amid tensions between the West and Russia over Ukraine.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was in attendance despite objections from Western leaders. However, the Russian Foreign Ministry told DPA that Lavrov would leave the meeting early after holding bilateral talks and addressing the press.

What was said about Ukraine?

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken made a direct appeal at the meeting of foreign ministers for Russia to unblock Ukraine's grain exports.

"Ukraine is not your country. Its grain is not your grain. Why are you blocking the ports? You should let the grain out," he said to Lavrov directly. 

Blinken said there had been widespread calls at the meeting urging Russia to end its war in Ukraine.

"What we've heard today already is a strong chorus from around the world — not just the United States but around the world about the need — for the aggression to end," Blinken told reporters on the sidelines of the talks in Bali.

Ukraine war to dominate Bali G20 meeting

Lavrov was not present in the afternoon, as Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba addressed the foreign ministers. He also walked out as German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock addressed the opening of the meeting.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi urged for a negotiated end to the war in Ukraine.

"It is our responsibility to end the war sooner than later and settle our differences at the negotiating table, not at the battlefield," Marsudi said at the opening of talks.

Marsudi added that it was important for Indonesia as the host to "create an atmosphere that's comfortable for everybody."

Several Western ministers, including Baerbock and Blinken, have ruled out meeting the Kremlin's top diplomat. They boycotted a dinner held on Thursday evening due to Lavrov's presence.

Blinken, Baerbock and French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna held talks ahead of the meeting, along with a senior British official to discuss "Russia's unprovoked and unjustifiable war of choice." UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss left early to return to London amid fallout from UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's resignation.

As Lavrov shook hands with Marsudi before the meeting began, journalists asked Lavrov: "When will you stop the war?" and "Why don't you stop the war?"

Reporter Andreas Kynast, from German broadcaster ZDF, said he had been the one to ask Lavrov the question, and was immediately thrown out by Indonesian security officials.

Lavrov complains of Western criticism

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov thanked host Indonesia, but denounced Western criticism of Moscow's war in Ukraine.

Lavrov said Western participants had "strayed almost immediately, as soon as they took the floor, to the frenzied criticism of the Russian Federation in connection with the situation in Ukraine."

"'Aggressors', 'invaders', 'occupiers' — we heard a lot of things today," he said.

"Everyone is telling us to put an end to the operation and reach a peaceful solution."

"Despite the behaviour of our Western colleagues, this is a useful discussion."

Lavrov added that Russia was is ready to negotiate with Ukraine and Turkey about grain but said it was unclear when such talks might take place.

The gathering as a whole was overshadowed by the shooting of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who previously represented his country at a number of G20 summits.

Australia seeks to mend relations with China

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong is set to meet with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of the meeting in a bid to mend relations.

"We all know we have our differences. There are challenges in the relationship. We believe engagement is necessary to stabilise the relationship," Wong told reporters.

China is Australia's largest trading partner, but relations have deteriorated in recent years after Canberra called for an investigation into the origins of COVID-19 and imposed a 5G network ban on Chinese firm Huawei. In response, Beijing imposed tariffs on Australian products including coal, seafood and wine.

"We don't believe those blockages are in our interests," she said, referring to Beijing's sanctions on Australian products. "We would say to China, they are not in China's interests."

sdi,rc/rt (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)