Indonesia, host of the G-20 summit has confirmed that Russian President Vladimir Putin will not be attending the gathering of the world’s twenty largest economies in person, which starts on November 15 in Bali.
Moscow will be represented by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Jodi Mahardi, a spokesperson for Indonesia’s Coordinating Ministry for Maritime and Investment Affairs told VOA. Putin may “participate online in one of the meetings,” he added.
Putin’s virtual participation is perhaps the best-case scenario for Jakarta, which has been under extreme diplomatic pressure from the West to rescind its invitation to the Russian leader amid its ongoing war in Ukraine. Indonesian President Joko Widodo has resisted such pressures and instead invited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to participate despite Ukraine not being a member.
Ukraine’s ambassador to Indonesia, Vasyl Hamianin, told VOA President Zelenskyy is “definitely” participating but still no confirmation whether he will do so in person or virtually.
Earlier this week Widodo said he has spoken by phone to his counterparts Putin and Zelenskyy and that both leaders had told him they would attend “if conditions allow,” without elaborating what those conditions might be.
Russia’s Lavrov will also be attending ASEAN partner summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, between November 10-13. Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba is also expected to attend the meetings.
In a phone call with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen earlier this month, Zelenskyy had requested to deliver a video statement during the ASEAN summit and reaffirmed Ukraine’s wish to become its dialogue partner. However, it is unclear whether the bloc, which will need a consensus to make a final decision, will agree on Zelenskyy’s video appearance.
Pa Chanroeun, an analyst at the Cambodian Institute for Democracy think tank, said it wouldn’t be a surprise if ASEAN members reject Zelenskyy’s participation since not all of its members voted to denounce Russia’s aggression in Ukraine at the United Nations.
ASEAN members focus too much on each country’s interests, he told VOA, adding that “it also shows the influence of geopolitics in Southeast Asia.”
The ten members of ASEAN have varying degrees of trade and diplomatic ties with Russia, and many see Moscow as another great power to maintain good relations with amid U.S.-China rivalry in the region.
During the summit, Ukrainian Minister Kuleba is expected to sign a so-called Instrument of Accession to the Treaty on Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, or TAC.
TAC is a peace treaty established in 1976 by ASEAN’s founding members that enshrines fundamental principles such as mutual respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and national identity of treaty nations.
It is a symbolic diplomatic move by 10 ASEAN member states to agree on the accession of Ukraine, a non-Southeast Asian country, to the
pact. The bloc will not be required to provide material or financial aid to Kyiv, but Ukraine gains additional support in the region.
Asked about the importance of Ukraine’s participation in the meetings, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said, “this theme, in general, has nothing to do with us,” in response to questions from reporters on Wednesday.
Leaders of other ASEAN partners, including U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, are scheduled to attend the gathering in person and meet with Cambodian PM Hun Sen on the sidelines of the summit. A highly anticipated meeting between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping is scheduled November 14 on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Bali.
VOA’s State Department Bureau chief Nike Ching, Ahadian Utama and Sun Narin contributed to the report.