Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has been shunned by the West for his offensive in Ukraine, will not travel to Indonesia for the G20 summit next week, officials said Thursday.
The Kremlin, embroiled in a protracted conflict in Ukraine and threatening the West with nuclear weapons, will send Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov instead. Putin could attend the Nov. 15-16 summit via video link, officials said.
“It was decided that Sergei Lavrov will represent Russia at the G20 summit,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
A trip to the Bali summit would have put Putin in a room with US President Joe Biden for the first time since Russia sent troops to Ukraine on February 24.
Biden has heavily criticized Putin and has ruled out meeting him in Bali should he go unless they discuss the release of Americans held in Russia.
Yulia Tomskaya, chief of protocol at the Russian embassy in Jakarta, said Putin could attend “virtually.”
“President Putin’s program is still being worked out,” she told the AFP news agency.
Confirmation Putin will not be present after months of uncertainty about his summit plans.
– “Dead end feeling” –
Observers say the Kremlin is trying to protect the 70-year-old leader from Western condemnation of the Ukraine offensive, which has seen Russian forces suffer setbacks against a Ukrainian counteroffensive.
In 2014, Putin dropped out of the G20 summit in Brisbane, where he received a chilly reception and faced heavy pressure from the West over Moscow’s backing of Ukraine’s insurgents.
Political scientist Konstantin Kalachev said that Putin does not want to leave his comfort zone and ask himself uncomfortable questions.
Putin’s refusal to attend the summit in person also suggests that he has no firm proposal to end the offensive in Ukraine.
“There is a sense of a dead end and without concrete proposals, Putin simply has nothing to do at this summit,” Kalachev told AFP.
Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Marine and Investment Affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan told reporters that Putin will not travel because “maybe (he) is employed in his country,” and said leaders should respect his decision.
Lavrov walked out of a G20 foreign ministers meeting in Bali in July after officials condemned Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
– Increasing Isolation –
Indonesia follows a neutral foreign policy and has rejected Western calls to exclude Russia from the summit.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo invited Putin despite the attack on Ukraine, sparking a wave of Western criticism. In August he said Putin had accepted the invitation.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy is expected to attend virtually. He had threatened to boycott the summit if Putin attended.
Ukraine is not a G20 member.
Russia describes its military campaign as a “special military operation” to “denazify” Ukraine and blames subsequent Western sanctions for the ensuing global food and energy crisis.
While these sanctions eroded Russia’s election campaign, other countries have maintained economic ties with Moscow. India and China increased their purchases of Russian oil.
– Global Crises –
The G20 summit will be the bloc’s biggest gathering since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has just secured a historic third term, is expected to attend.
The talks are being held in the shadow of disagreements over the food and energy crises aggravated by the Ukraine conflict, as well as rising inflation and climate change.
G20 meetings that preceded the heads of state and government meeting all ended without a joint communiqué.
The Bali summit is also unlikely to end with a joint statement, but Indonesia’s foreign ministry said “negotiations for the final document are still ongoing.”
© Agence France-Presse