Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday briefly talked with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, in New Delhi on the sidelines of a G20 meeting, marking the first in-person meeting between the two diplomats since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The two diplomats spoke for less than 10 minutes, and there was no sign any breakthrough was made. According to Blinken’s account, he told Lavrov Russia should stop fighting in Ukraine and resume participation in New START, the last remaining arms control treaty between the two powers.
Blinken also said he discussed Paul Whelan, a former US Marine who was arrested on spying charges in Moscow in 2018 with a USB that contained classified information and was handed a 16-year sentence in 2020. He said the US has put forward a proposal to exchange Whelan and that Moscow should accept it.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said the two diplomats held talks “on the go” and that it wasn’t long enough to be considered a negotiation. “Blinken asked for a contact with Lavrov. Sergey Viktorovich (Lavrov) had communication on the go during the second session. But there were no negotiations, no meeting or so on,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told TASS.
In comments after the G20 meeting, Lavrov criticized Western countries that participated in the summit and only alluded to his talk with Blinken. “They decided not to communicate with us, this is their choice, although when our paths cross in the corridors and on the sidelines of events like the one today, not everyone manages to kind of turn away and run past,” he said.
The brief meeting marked only the second time Blinken spoke with Lavrov since the invasion. In July 2022, the two held a phone call, but Blinken said they only discussed a prisoner swap, not the war in Ukraine.
The two diplomats were talking in the months leading up to the invasion, but Blinken canceled a meeting with Lavrov right before it was launched in response to President Vladimir Putin recognizing the independence of the Donbas republics and announcing the deployment of “peacekeeping” troops there. After that, Blinken cut off contact with Lavrov until the July 2022 phone call.