Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov listens during the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting in New Delhi on March 2, 2023.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov listens during the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting in New Delhi on March 2, 2023. (Olivier Douliery, AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

(Tribune News Service) — Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a brief encounter with his Russian counterpart on the sidelines of the Group of 20 meeting in India, their first in-person meeting since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a year ago.

The top U.S. diplomat pressed Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to move toward a peace deal with Ukraine and advocated for U.S. citizens detained by Moscow, a Biden administration official said on Thursday.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry played down the interaction, saying the two conversed briefly at Blinken’s request on the sidelines of the G-20 session, underlining that the contact didn’t qualify as “talks or a meeting,” according to Interfax.

Blinken told Lavrov that the U.S. and other international partners would continue to support Ukraine for as long as it takes, a senior State Department official told reporters in a phone briefing, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The conversation lasted about 10 minutes, they said, adding that the U.S. side did not leave the meeting expecting any near term changes in Russian policy.

Blinken urged Lavrov to implement the New START nuclear weapons treaty and also pressed for the release of detained U.S. citizen Paul Whelan, the official said.

Although Blinken and Lavrov have both attended international summits since the war, including the G-20 foreign ministers meeting last summer and at the United Nations General Assembly in September, the two men have not formally met since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.

Blinken has avoided meetings with Lavrov, arguing that they wouldn’t be productive while President Vladimir Putin showed no signs of engaging in real discussions to end the war.

The two men had what Blinken called a “frank and direct” phone call in July 2022, as U.S. diplomats tried to secure the release of Whelan and Brittney Griner, who were being held in Russia. Griner was later released in a prisoner swap that pardoned Viktor Bout, a notorious arms dealer.

Blinken had said on Wednesday at a press briefing in Uzbekistan that he had no plans to meet with the Russian or Chinese foreign ministers at the G-20 gathering.

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.


Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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