Indonesian President Joko Widodo told reporters on Tuesday that Russian leader Vladimir Putin may not attend next week’s G20 summit, suggesting a potential “virtual” appearance, instead.
The G20 summit brings together the leaders of the 19 largest economies on earth and the European Union collectively. The guest list for this year’s conference raised expectations for some contentious encounters, as leftist American President Joe Biden, Chinese dictator Xi Jinping, Putin, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky were all expected to attend this summer. Ukraine is not a member, but Jokowi, as the Indonesian president is known, announced in April he reached out to Zelensky and extended an invite.
Indonesia is hosting this year’s summit, scheduled to begin on November 15, on the island of Bali.
Jokowi’s latest public update on the summit said that 17 world leaders had confirmed their attendance, leaving three not including Ukraine up in the air. Jokowi did not specify who, besides Putin, had yet to confirm, but did note that no party had declined the invitation.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014, and subsequent escalation of hostilities in February, has resulted in widespread calls for Indonesia to disinvite Putin from the summit and for the G20 generally to expel Russia, as the now-G7, formerly G8, did in 2014 following Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Zelensky has insisted that he will not participate in the summit if Putin is there, though he generally accepted the invitation.
Jokowi has adamantly refused to disinvite Putin and insisted on bringing all countries involved in the dispute to the same location to discuss the matter. He has also rejected bringing geopolitics into the summit, which he has claimed should be a purely economic event.
Speaking to reporters, Jokowi said on Tuesday that he had yet to receive a confirmation from Putin and indicated the Russian leader was considering not participating.
“He said that he will be there if the circumstances allow it. If not, maybe he’ll ask to do it virtually,” Jokowi said vaguely, according to the Jakarta Post. Jokowi claimed that Putin had given “strong impressions” that he would skip the summit in other remarks to the Financial Times.
— The Jakarta Post (@jakpost) November 9, 2022
Attending the conference “virtually” would allow Putin to offer an address and use the G20 platform without potentially having uncomfortable exchanges on the sidelines or involving allies like China’s Xi, who Putin himself has claimed has expressed “concerns” about the Ukraine invasion, in such meetings. It would also keep him in Moscow, guiding the war.
Speaking to the Financial Times, Jokowi also insisted that the G20 was not “a political forum” and political disputes should not be the focus there.
“It’s meant to be about economics and development,” he insisted, though he was the one who chose to invite Zelensky.
Indonesian president Jokowi gets a “strong impression” that Putin will skip the G20 summit next week in Bali. That would put much of the focus on the first Biden-Xi face-to-face and mending US-China ties.https://t.co/1qcb62iU0Z
— Derek J. Grossman (@DerekJGrossman) November 8, 2022
Jokowi, whose country is allied with both Russia and Ukraine, has taken a personal interest in the war. In July, he visited Zelensky in Kyiv and flew immediately to Moscow to meet Putin in an effort to facilitate dialogue.
“The Indonesian constitution mandates to contribute to the creation of world peace. It is in this context that I visited Kyiv and Moscow,” he explained at the time. “The current situation is still very difficult, but it is important to continue to promote a peaceful settlement and open spaces for dialogue.”
Putin’s government addressed the confusion surrounding his potential participation in the summit on Wednesday, but the Kremlin did not offer any new clarity.
“When the decision is made – I think, it will happen in the upcoming days – we will tell you,” top Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. Peskov claimed that Putin was still considering “various formats” for participation, without elaborating.
A potential appearance in Bali for Zelensky is likely playing into considerations regarding Putin’s travel to the event. Zelensky has also failed to confirm an appearance. On Tuesday, the Ukrainian president’s spokesman Sergey Nikiforov confirmed that Zelensky would participate in the conference “in some way” but did not specify if he would travel to Indonesia. According to the Russian news agency Tass, Nikiforov said, “most likely it will be an online format.”
“In some way, of course, Volodymyr Zelensky will take part in the G20 summit. I can’t say more,” he said.
Zelensky himself mentioned the G20 on Tuesday in his regular address to Ukrainians.
“An important preparatory week for us continues on the eve of diplomatic activities in the second half of November,” he said on a televised broadcast, according to the state media outlet Ukrinform. “These are important summits: G20, ASEAN, NATO Parliamentary Assembly and some others. The position of Ukraine must be and will be heard in all parts of the world.”
As recently as last week, Ukrainian officials had confirmed Zelensky’s position of not participating in the summit of Putin did so. Zelensky issued a decree last month formalizing a policy to not negotiate with Putin, calling talks with the leader to end the war “impossible” and declaring that Ukraine would only negotiate peace with a different Russian head of state. Prior to this, in September, Zelensky told the United Nations General Assembly that his country had participated in 88 rounds of talks with Russia to no avail.
In speaking to COP27, the United Nations climate change alarmism conference, this week, Zelensky suggested that, decree aside, he was once again open to some negotiation.
“Anyone who is serious about the climate agenda should also be serious about the need to immediately stop Russian aggression, restore our territorial integrity, and force Russia into genuine peace negotiations,” Zelensky reportedly told the climate conference.