NEW DELHI — The G20 endorsed language in support of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, but the group of the world’s biggest economies weakened a previous stance that directly blamed Russia for the war in Ukraine.
The joint communiqué for the G20 summit in India stated that all countries should “refrain from action against the territorial integrity and sovereignty or political independence of any state.” That language was unchanged from a draft first reported by POLITICO on Saturday.
The wording, which Western countries wanted in order to signal a continued anger at Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, could also appease Moscow’s complaints that attacks inside Russia have escalated since Kyiv launched its counteroffensive. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was deeply involved in the weeks of negotiations leading to the final version.
But the joint statement didn’t include a direct condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which a G20 statement in Bali last November did. Some officials contend that a shift was the only way to get buy-in from some of the group’s more Moscow-friendly members — let alone the fact that Russia is also in the bloc.
Critics argued that U.S. President Joe Biden could have gotten more. Svitlana Romanko, founder and director of the pro-Ukraine group Razom We Stand, called the communiqué “weak” and “cowardly by not even mentioning Russia or its ongoing war crimes.”
But some G20 members say it reflected a fair compromise. “It is a fact that this is today a very polarizing issue and there are multiple views on this,” Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said Saturday, referring to Ukraine. “Bali was a year ago, the situation was different. Many things have happened since then.”
There’s further language in the declaration that Western officials could herald as victories. It references adherence to the United Nations charter, which stipulates that no country can threaten another’s territory and sovereignty by force — a key demand of the U.S. and the EU in the run-up to the G20 summit. And it also calls for the “full, timely and effective implementation” of the Black Sea Grain Initiative which has stalled after Russia pulled out during the summer.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has already touted the document as a “good and strong outcome.”
“What you’ll see in the communique is strong language, highlighting the impact of the war on food prices and food security, calling on Russia to re-enter the Black Sea grain initiative to allow exports to leave that part of the world and help feed millions of the most vulnerable people as well as the communique recognizing the principles of the U.N. charter respecting territorial integrity,” he said.
Eleni Courea contributed to this report.