December 4, 2022

Hong Kong CNN —

Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend a summit of Group-20 leaders in Bali next week in person, the Russian embassy in Indonesia told CNN on Thursday.

Putin will be represented by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, said Yulia Tomskaya, the embassy’s chief of protocol.

Tomskaya added that Putin is still considering whether to attend one of the meetings virtually.

Coordinating Indonesian Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investments Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan also said Putin would not attend. Pandjaitan, who is helping to coordinate the summit, said the Russian president would be represented by “senior officials”.

Putin’s decision not to attend the G20 in person spares him the embarrassment of being confronted — or shunned — by other world leaders over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The meeting comes just days after the Kremlin announced that Russian forces would withdraw from a large part of Kherson – one of four Ukrainian regions that Putin had previously told Russia was planning an annexation in violation of international law.

Ahead of the event, Western countries and Ukraine have pressured Indonesia, the host of the G20, to step up its condemnation of Moscow and withdraw its invitation to Putin at the summit. Since the invasion of Ukraine in late February, Western democracies have treated Russia and Putin as pariahs on the world stage.

US President Joe Biden, who is attending the summit, said in March Russia should be expelled from the G20, a multilateral organization that includes 19 of the world’s largest economies and the European Union. Senior members of the Biden administration have walked out of G20 events attended by Russian delegates.

When asked if he would meet Putin in person in Bali during an exclusive interview last month, Biden said he didn’t see a good reason to but it would “depend exactly on what he wanted to talk about.” Biden said if Putin wanted to talk about jailed American basketball star Brittney Griner, he was open to discussions.

Jakarta has resisted pressure to single out Russia and tried to maintain a neutral position. She invited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as a guest to the summit.

Zelenskyy said that Ukraine would not take part in the G20 summit if Putin did. The President of Ukraine is expected to attend the meetings virtually.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who met Putin in Uzbekistan in September, is also expected to attend the summit and will meet Biden for the first time since the American president took office almost two years ago.

Beijing has not officially confirmed whether Xi will attend the summit or meet with Biden. But on Wednesday, Biden said at a White House press briefing after the midterm elections that he would hold talks with Xi in Bali.

Biden said he doesn’t plan to make “fundamental concessions” and they would talk about business and trade. However, he declined to reveal his message on US military support for Taiwan should China move to the self-governing island.

“I’m going to have this conversation with him,” Biden added, noting that they would outline “what each of our red lines is.”

Their much-anticipated meeting comes as US-China relations reach their lowest point in decades in a downward spiral that began under Donald Trump’s former presidency, when the two countries deepened their rivalry on trade, technology, geopolitics and ideology strengthened.

Tensions have reached new highs in recent months following US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan and the Biden administration’s bid to ban sales of advanced chips and chip-making equipment to China.

Meanwhile, China under Xi has drawn closer to Russia, united by their collapsing ties with the US and other Western countries. Weeks before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Xi and Putin declared that their countries share a “borderless” friendship. Beijing has since refused to condemn the war in Ukraine or call it an “invasion”.

According to the Thai Foreign Ministry, after the G20, Xi will attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Bangkok, which starts next Friday. Biden is not expected to attend the event, while Putin has yet to confirm his attendance.