JAKARTA, Indonesia — Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend the Group of 20 summit in Indonesia next week, an Indonesian government official said Thursday, avoiding a possible confrontation with the United States and its allies over his war in Ukraine.
U.S. President Joe Biden, Chinese President Xi Jinping and other world leaders are to attend the two-day summit in Bali that starts Nov. 15. The summit was to have been the first time Biden and Putin would have been together at a gathering since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, the Chief of Support for G-20 events told reporters in Denpasar, Indonesia, that Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will lead the Russian delegation.
“The Indonesian government respects the decision of the Russian government, which President Putin himself previously explained to President Joko Widodo in a very friendly telephone conversation,” said Pandjaitan, who is also the Coordinating Minister of Maritime and Investment.
Widodo, who is hosting the G-20 and Pandjaitan, said that “we hope that the good communication between the two leaders can reduce tensions between Russia and Ukraine.”
The G-20 is the biggest of three summits being held in Southeast Asia this week and next, and it remained unclear if Lavrov will represent Russia at all of them. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit began Thursday in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, followed by the G-20 and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Bangkok, Thailand.
Biden will attend ASEAN and the G-20 while Vice President Kamala Harris will travel to APEC.
Biden had ruled out meeting with Putin if he had attended the summit, and said the only conversation he could have possibly had with the Russian leader would be to discuss a deal to free Americans imprisoned in Russia.
Biden administration officials said they had been coordinating with global counterparts to isolate Putin if he had decided to participate either in person or virtually. They have discussed boycotts or other displays of condemnation.
Putin’s decision not to attend the G-20 comes as Russia’s forces in Ukraine have suffered significant setbacks. Russia’s military said it will withdraw from Kherson, which is the only Ukrainian regional capital it captured and a gateway to the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula.
Russia’s announced retreat from Kherson along with a potential stalemate in fighting over the winter could provide both countries an opportunity to negotiate peace, Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Wednesday.
He said as many as 40,000 Ukrainian civilians and “well over” 100,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or wounded in the war, now in its ninth month. “Same thing probably on the Ukrainian side,” Milley added.