Antony Blinken tells Sergey Lavrov: America will back Ukraine for as long as it takes
US secretary of state Antony Blinken and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov have met face-to-face for the first time since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine more than a year ago.
The pair spoke briefly on Thursday at a meeting of top diplomats from the Group of 20 nations in the first high-level meeting in months between the two countries.
US officials said Mr Blinken and Mr Lavrov chatted for roughly 10 minutes on the sidelines of the G20 conference in New Delhi, India.
The short encounter comes as relations between Washington and Moscow have plummeted while tensions over Russia’s war with Ukraine have soared.
A senior US official said Mr Blinken used the discussion to make three points to Mr Lavrov: that the US would support Ukraine in the conflict for as long as it takes to bring the war to an end; that Russia should reverse its decision to suspend participation in the New Start nuclear treaty; and that Moscow should release detained American Paul Whelan.
The official declined to characterise Mr Lavrov’s response but said Mr Blinken did not get the impression that there would be any change in Russia’s behaviour in the near term.
Mr Lavrov, who did not mention speaking to Mr Blinken, told reporters that Moscow will continue to pursue its action in Ukraine.
He shrugged off Western claims of Russia’s isolation, saying “we aren’t feeling isolated, it’s the West that has isolated itself, and it will eventually come to realise it”.
He said Russia remains open to talks on ending the conflict in Ukraine but he accused the West of effectively blocking such talks.
“They are calling on us to have talks but I don’t remember any Western colleagues calling on Ukraine to have talks,” he said. “They are encouraging Ukraine to continue the war.”
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said Mr Blinken had asked to speak to Mr Lavrov.
It was their first contact since last summer, when Mr Blinken called Mr Lavrov by phone about a US proposal for Russia to release Mr Whelan and detained WNBA star Brittney Griner.
Ms Griner was later released in a swap for imprisoned Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout but Mr Whelan is still detained in Russia after being accused of spying.
The last time Mr Blinken and Mr Lavrov met in person was in Geneva, Switzerland, in January 2022 on the eve of Russia’s invasion.
At that meeting, Mr Blinken warned Mr Lavrov about consequences Russia would face if it went ahead with its planned military operation but also sought to address some complaints that Russian president Vladimir Putin had made about the US. and Nato.
Those talks proved to be inconclusive as Russia moved ahead with its plans to invade and Mr Blinken then cancelled a scheduled follow-up meeting with Mr Lavrov that was set for just two days before Moscow eventually invaded on February 24 2022.
The two men have attended several international conferences together since the war began, notably the last G20 foreign ministers’ meeting in Bali, Indonesia, last year, but had not come face-to-face until Thursday.