Zelensky Condemns India’s Modi for Moscow Trip: ‘Huge Disappointment and a Devastating Blow to Peace’

Russian President Vladimir Putin decorates Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the Or

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed “huge disappointment” on Monday that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi conducted a visit with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, equating Modi’s warm welcome in Moscow with a reported Russian attack on a children’s hospital in Ukraine.

On Monday, Modi began his first official visit to Russia since Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Putin regaled Modi with a private dinner and hosted him in the presidential residence before talks in a more official capacity were expected to occur on Tuesday:

Russia and India are close allies as a result of decades of Indian purchases of Russian and Soviet weapons and the two countries’ membership in the anti-American BRICS alliance. Modi’s government has markedly rejected pressure from the United States and Europe to cease its purchases of Russia’s crude oil in protest of the Ukraine invasion, instead increasing purchases of discounted Russian oil and refining it, selling to the West at a markup.

In contrast, India has struggled to maintain a cordial relationship with Ukraine. Modi has met and otherwise held conversations with Zelensky in the years following the Russian “special operation,” but the bilateral relationship has been marred by Ukraine rejecting India’s maintenance of ties with Russia and bizarre incidents such as Ukrainian government social media accounts sharing a “Hinduphobic” illustration.

Zelensky did not refer to Modi by name but published a message on Twitter referencing his visit to Russia.

“In Ukraine today, 37 people were killed, three of whom were children, and 170 were injured, including 13 children, as a result of Russia’s brutal missile strike,” Zelensky wrote. “A Russian missile struck the largest children’s hospital in Ukraine, targeting young cancer patients. Many were buried under the rubble.”

“It is a huge disappointment and a devastating blow to peace efforts to see the leader of the world’s largest democracy hug the world’s most bloody criminal in Moscow on such a day,” he concluded, a clear reference to Modi:

Modi and Zelensky held their first in-person meeting since the Russian full-scale invasion in May 2023 at the G7 summit, which Zelensky was invited to attend despite Ukraine not being a member of the organization.

“The war in Ukraine is a big issue for the whole world,” Modi told Zelensky at the time. “It has also had many effects on the whole world. But I don’t consider it to be just an issue of economy or politics. For me, it is an issue of humanity.”

Modi and Zelensky held a conversation in March in which, according to the Indian External Affairs Ministry, the two “discussed ways to further strengthen India-Ukraine partnership in various spheres.”

Modi “highlighted that India supports all efforts for an early and peaceful resolution of all issues between the Parties. He added that India would continue to do everything within its means to support a peaceful solution,” according to the Indian government.

Popular sentiment in India soured significantly against Ukraine in May 2023 after the Ukrainian Defense Ministry posted an image on social media of a Ukrainian bomb detonating on Russian-occupied Crimea, stylized into an illustration that appeared to show the Hindu goddess Kali wearing Marilyn Monroe’s iconic white dress. The cloud created by the bomb formed the skirt of the dress and Kali’s skin, which is traditionally depicted as blue. Kali, the Hindu goddess of destruction, appears in depictions with an open mouth, tongue out, wearing a necklace of the heads of men she has killed.

The image of a major Hindu goddess in a revealing dress outraged Indian Internet users and prompted the Defense Ministry to delete the post.

Modi’s visit to Russia has featured no significant conversations on the Ukraine issue, and he has not responded to Zelensky at press time. Modi updated on his own social media account that the scheduled official talks with Putin had concluded on Tuesday.

“Our talks covered ways to diversify India-Russia cooperation in sectors such as trade, commerce, security, agriculture, technology and innovation,” Modi wrote. “We attach great importance to boosting connectivity and people-to-people exchanges.”

He did not mention Ukraine in his message:

Putin and Modi’s public remarks on Monday prior to their private engagements also failed to include mention of the ongoing war. The two, instead, exchanged personal compliments; Putin made particular mention of India becoming the world’s most populous nation as an indication that Indian people were allegedly content with Modi’s governance.

“The main thing is that 23 million babies are born in India every year, which is a lot even for a country like India. It is the highest figure in the world,” Putin said, according to a Kremlin transcript of their remarks. “But it is more than just a figure. It shows that people are planning their families and lives, and their planning horizon is expanding. It means that they feel comfortable and stable, which is extremely important.”

Putin’s remarks appeared to be a veiled barb against China. Formerly the most populous state in the world, China lost its position to India due to an ongoing collapse of its birth rate driven by public dissatisfaction with the Communist Party. Many young Chinese people have adopted a philosophy known as “lying flat” in which they abandon all career ambitions, do not pursue marriage and family-building, and instead live with their parents indefinitely to deny the Communist Party any national success.

China and Russia maintain in public that their bilateral relationship is in its best-ever moment and support each other’s geopolitical ambitions, but Putin has increasingly appeared concerned about China overshadowing Russia. In conversation with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán last week, for example, Putin complained that trade between Russia and Hungary had declined significantly as Orbán pursued expanded trade ties with China.

China is a member of BRICS, alongside India and Russia.

In his remarks to Putin on Monday, Modi abstained from any effusive praise of Putin, save for heralding him as a gracious host. Instead, he reiterated Putin’s positive assessment of his own government.

“The people of India who have given this mandate to me… I have worked in government for 10 years, and my principle is reform, perform, transform,” Modi said. “So, the Indian people voted for that principle, and I am confident that I will work three times more during my third term.”

On Tuesday, Putin honored Modi with the Order of St. Andrew the Apostle, the highest award Russia offers to foreign nationals:

Multiple reports on Tuesday indicated that Modi had successfully obtained at least one concession from Putin related to Ukraine in their officials talks: an end to Russian operations to scam Indian nationals into fighting on the front lines. Reports began surfacing in March that online scammers were offering lucrative jobs to Indian nationals, some allegedly in Russia and others in destinations such as Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). According to families of the victims, they were tricked instead into fighting against Ukrainians on the front lines. Members of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) accused Russia of using Indians as “cannon fodder” and demanded a firm stance from the nation’s leadership against the practice.

India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) confirmed evidence of the scam shortly after families denounced it in March.

“The trafficked Indian nationals were trained in combat roles and deployed at front bases in Russia-Ukraine War Zone against their wishes,” the CBI revealed.

Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Randhir Jaiswal later confirmed that “several Indian nationals have been duped to work with the Russian army.”

The Indian newspaper the Hindu reported on Tuesday that Putin accepted Modi’s request to stop the practice.

“We expect the release [of Indians in the Russian military] to take place within weeks from various places where they are serving or deployed,” anonymous unspecified “sources” claimed.

The Russian government has yet to comment on the accusations or the report that Putin would intervene to stop the trafficking of unwilling Indian soldiers at press time.

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