Mar 2, 2023 - World

Blinken and Russian foreign minister briefly meet in G20 surprise

Antony Blinken (L) meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (R) at the Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik, Iceland, May 19, 2021,

Antony Blinken meets with Sergei Lavrov in May 2021 on the sidelines of the Arctic Council Ministerial summit. Photo: Saul Loeb/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken unexpectedly met his Russian counterpart on the sidelines of the G20 summit in New Delhi Thursday.

Why it matters: It was Blinken's first in-person conversation with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov since the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine just over a year ago.

  • The two haven't spoken since last summer, when they held a phone call about a proposal to release WNBA star Brittney Griner.
  • Blinken previously denied having any plans to meet Lavrov one-on-one at the summit.

The big picture: Blinken used his brief meeting with Lavrov to call on Russia to reverse its decision to suspend participation in the New START nuclear treaty, he said during a press conference later Thursday.

  • Blinken also pressed Lavrov on the detention of detained American Paul Whelan, who has been jailed in Russia since 2018.
  • The U.S. official said Blinken thought that no change in Russia's behavior was imminent, according to AP, which cited a senior U.S. official.

State of play: Russia's war in Ukraine remained a central topic of discussion at the G20 meeting Thursday.

  • "Unfortunately, this meeting has again been marred by Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified war against Ukraine," Blinken told members at a closed-door session, per Reuters.

The other side: Lavrov accused some Western delegations of turning the G20 into a "farce" by attempting to "shift the blame for their economic failures" to Russia, according to Russian state news agency Tass.

  • Russia's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said that Blinken had requested the meeting, Interfax reported.

Editor's note: This story was updated with additional reporting.

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