G20 summit: Vladimir Putin may be absent, but he is still on leaders’ minds – Times of India

JAKARTA: Vladimir Putin may be absent from the Group of 20 summit but he’ll still be at the center of attention among world leaders wrestling with the consequences of the Russian president’s floundering war in Ukraine.
Putin opted to avoid potential confrontations with President Joe Biden and US allies at the summit starting Tuesday in Indonesia’s Bali. After repeated setbacks and climbdowns over Ukraine, the leader who has reveled in projecting a strong-man image may also have had to contend with even friendly leaders politely distancing themselves at the G20.
“If Putin had gone he wouldn’t have got meetings with Biden and other Western leaders,” said Oksana Antonenko, a director at Control Risks in London. “Equally, any meetings with the leaders of China and India would just have highlighted their lukewarm position on the war, which they want to see end as soon as possible.”
Having sent foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in his place, the risk for Putin is that Russia gets remembered as the unwelcome guest at the party. There have been frictions over the organization of the traditional “family photo” at the summit and tensions over the wording on the war in a final joint communique.
Lavrov, who had no public engagements in Bali on Monday, is expected to leave the G20 a day early after meetings Tuesday with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, according to a person close to the Russian delegation.
“He’s not Putin but it’s understood that whatever discussions are held with him will be relayed back to the Kremlin,” said Emily Ferris, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London.
The Kremlin explained the president’s decision not to go to Bali by his need to deal with urgent questions at home. Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in a briefing on Monday, however, that it was “a routine workday for the president” with his only public engagement being a discussion by videolink about the harvest with one of Russia’s regional governors.
Still, the summit takes place only days after the humiliating retreat of Russian forces from Ukraine’s southern city of Kherson, the only regional capital they’d captured since Putin’s February 24 invasion began.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited the recaptured city Monday, hours after declaring “the beginning of the end of the war” in his nightly address to the nation.
Putin has remained silent about the defeat, which came less than seven weeks after he declared Kherson and three other partially occupied Ukrainian regions to be Russian “forever.” It follows on the heels of other successes by Ukrainian counteroffensives that have pushed Russian forces back in the east and south of the country since September.
Russia has also retreated repeatedly from attempts to escalate pressure on Ukraine’s allies. It walked back threats of a possible use of nuclear weapons after sharp rebukes from the US and its Nato allies as well as warning signals from Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Biden and Xi met for about three hours in Bali on Monday in their first face-to-face talks, and agreed a series of measures intended to improve relations.
Xi told Biden that China is “highly concerned” about the situation in Ukraine, the foreign ministry in Beijing said in a statement. The two leaders agreed that they oppose “the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine,” according to a White House statement.
CIA director Bill Burns warned of the consequences of Russia using nuclear weapons at a meeting with Russian Foreign Intelligence Service Director Sergei Naryshkin in Ankara on Monday, a White House spokesperson said.
Days after pulling out, Russia this month resumed involvement in a deal allowing vital exports of Ukrainian grain via a Black Sea security corridor when Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations continued shipments anyway. On Monday, the Kremlin said it was having “constructive” talks with the UN on extending the deal beyond a November 19 deadline.
Putin risked “humiliating situations” at the G20 if he attended, Sergei Markov, a political consultant to the Kremlin, said on Telegram. By skipping the meeting in Bali and the ASEAN and APEC summits this month, the Russian leader has opted to stay “completely on the sidelines,” he said.

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