Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, who was representing President Vladimir Putin, left Bali on Wednesday, a day ahead of the scheduled conclusion of the G20 Summit held amid the economic challenges triggered by the Russia-Ukraine war.
Lavrov took the flight home apparently hours after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky virtually addressed the leaders on Tuesday, repeatedly referring to them as the G19 and calling for the war to end “justly”.
It is not clear if Lavrov’s exit – confirmed by host Indonesia – had anything to do with Zelensky’s speech. The working sessions of the Group of 20 are not open to reporters, but the Zelensky address is available on Ukrainian media sites.
There were unconfirmed reports earlier that Lavrov was ill and visited a Bali hospital for a medical check-up before the two-day summit began on Tuesday. Russia denied the reports.
With hours to go before the end of the summit, there was speculation that the joint communique would clearly name Russia as the aggressor or would simply seek an end to the war.
In his address on Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for a return to the path of “ceasefire and diplomacy” to resolve the raging Ukraine conflict.
He also opposed any restrictions on the supply of energy, amid the West’s call against the procurement of discounted Russian oil and gas.
There is no official word from Moscow so far, but Lavrov’s early exit could signal Russia’s opposition to criticism over its military action in Ukraine.
It could also make things easier for host Indonesia. There were reports that western leaders did not want to be in the same frame as Lavrov when the G20 group photo was taken.
According to the unofficial transcript of Zelensky’s speech, the Ukrainian leader said he wanted the “destructive war” to end in a just manner “on the basis of the UN Charter and international law”.
“Russia must reaffirm the territorial integrity of Ukraine within the framework of the relevant resolution of the UN General Assembly and the applicable international legally binding documents,” he reportedly said.
Peace is a global value, Zelensky said.
“That, which is important for every person in the world. I am confident that it is likewise for each of you, leaders of the G-19,” he said.
The Ukrainian leaders wanted “joint efforts” reflected in the outcome of the summit. The annual G20 Summit opened here on Tuesday.
The G20 members are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the UK, the US and the European Union.
India has included Bangladesh, Egypt, Mauritius, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Oman, Singapore, Spain and the UAE as guest countries during its presidency.