Russian foreign minister accuses Zelensky of dragging out war after G20 snub

Sergey Lavrov wears what appears to be a traditional Indonesian shirt as he walks by a row of armed guards.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, on Tuesday. (Willy Kurniawan/Pool via Reuters)

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, at the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, accused Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky of avoiding peace.

Lavrov was sent in President Vladimir Putin’s place to lead the Russian delegation at the meeting of the world’s 20 largest economies.

Speaking after a private conference on Tuesday, Lavrov told reporters that Russia does not refuse to negotiate with Ukraine over ending the war. “If anyone refuses, it is Ukraine,” Lavrov said, according to a Google translation from Russian state-affiliated media TASS. “And the longer it refuses, the more difficult it will ultimately be to negotiate.” Lavrov added that Zelensky has put forward unrealistic expectations for peace.

Zelensky, in cargo pants and a hooded down jacket, stands with his right hand over his heart among half a dozen soldiers in helmets and camouflage fatigues, one of whom trains a camera at Zelensky.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky sings the national anthem during a visit to Kherson, Ukraine, on Monday. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via Reuters)

The foreign minister said he had had talks with the leaders of both Germany and France over the war in Ukraine and accused Zelensky of not listening to advice from allies in the West, Reuters reports.

It comes after Zelensky gave a virtual address at the summit, calling on world leaders to end the “Russian destructive war.” He called on support from all “G19” leaders — purposely leaving out Russia, a member of the G20, in his request. It was noted that Lavrov did not leave when Zelensky started speaking, unlike what happened at his previous appearance at September’s U.N. Security Council meeting.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak condemned the war in Ukraine as “barbaric” during the closed-door meeting of the G20. According to the BBC, Sunak told Lavrov that the U.K. would back Ukraine “for as long as it takes.” The newly appointed prime minister criticized Putin for not attending the conference, saying, “Maybe if he had, we could get on with sorting things out.”

Meanwhile, Lavrov stated that the U.N. had said the U.S. and the European Union had given written promises to remove obstacles to the export of grain and fertilizers to world markets. He claimed that U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres had provided the pledges during a sideline meeting at the summit.

Guterres and Lavrov are seated in chairs between a side table, on which rest two small flags, two empty glasses and a few bottles of mineral water, in front of a red backdrop that reads: G20 Indonesia 2022.
Lavrov, right, speaks to U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres during their meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit on Tuesday. (Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service via AP)

“The secretary-general spoke about the written promises that the U.S. and the EU gave him,” Lavrov told reporters, according to Reuters. “We are assured by the U.N. secretary-general that all economic operators involved in the supply chains of Russian fertilizers and grains are receiving reassuring signals that they will not be subject to sanctions if they cooperate on the implementation of trade deals with our grain.”

Western sanctions haven’t directly targeted Russian grain and fertilizers. However, the Kremlin said it had been restricted in exporting these products due to limited access to finance, insurance and ports.