Divisions over the war play out at a G20 meeting as Russia prepares for an assault on Donetsk in eastern Ukraine.

Source: www.nytimes.com : 2022-07-08 18:32:06 : Michael Crowley and Matthew Mpoke Bigg

As foreign ministers from the Group of 20 industrialized nations met in Bali on Friday to discuss some of the world’s most pressing challenges, including the war in Ukraine, the divisions playing out as a result of the fighting were to the fore diplomatically, too.

The nations in attendance have previously been divided about how to respond to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with major powers like India, China and Brazil unwilling to join in the Western-led sanctions against Moscow. The ministers here were unable to agree on a customary joint communiqué.

And in opening remarks by the event’s host, Indonesia’s foreign minister, breaking with largely unqualified Western expressions of support for Ukraine’s war effort, said that growing food and energy crises meant that it was the world’s “responsibility to end the war sooner than later and settle our differences at the negotiating table, not the battlefield.”

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, attended the meeting, despite his country’s pariah status in Europe and beyond over the war, and said that “blatant Russophobia” was causing Western nations to allow harm to the global economy through sanctions against his country. But Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and several other Western officials declined to meet with him.

Yet just as Russia prepares for an onslaught on the Donetsk region in the eastern part of Ukraine, Mr. Lavrov did meet directly with several ministers from major nations that have declined to join the Western-led coalition against his country, including those from China, India, Brazil, Turkey, Argentina and Indonesia.

Mr. Blinken was also expected to meet in Bali with China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, and reiterate American warnings that Beijing not supply Moscow with weapons for its war effort in Ukraine or help it evade Western sanctions. China has already increased its purchases of Russian oil, albeit at a discount, helping President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia maintain high oil revenues even in the face of huge sanctions.

The gathering in Bali was also colored by geopolitical drama, after the announcement on Thursday by Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain that he would resign and the shocking assassination on Friday of Shinzo Abe, the former prime minister of Japan.

In Ukraine, even as Russian forces pummel towns and villages in Donetsk with deadly rocket attacks and airstrikes, military experts say the strikes are most likely only the prelude to a full-scale assault. Still, Russia’s attacks in Donetsk in recent days have caused heavy damage. A report this week by British military intelligence said that while heavy shelling continued on the front line in Donetsk, Russian forces had made few advances and were “likely reconstituting” their operations.

Western countries have increased the flow of weapons to Ukraine, including long-range missiles capable of hitting Russian positions and infrastructure. The most advanced of these is the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, supplied by the United States, the first of which have just started to be deployed.

Senators Lindsey Graham and Richard Blumenthal traveled on Thursday to Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, where, after meeting Ukraine’s president, they said they would push Congress to send more weapons to the country to fight Russia.

The ultimate Russian objective in the Donbas region, which includes Donetsk and neighboring Luhansk Province, is to capture Kramatorsk, the site of Ukraine’s regional administration since 2014, when separatists seized territory in the two provinces and established self-declared republics backed by Moscow. During the eight years of conflict that followed, Ukrainian forces built elaborate defensive positions designed to make Russian forces pay dearly for any further attempts to seize territory.

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