Blinken and Russian foreign minister briefly meet in G20 surprise

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, according to AP, which cited a senior U.S. official.

  • 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, AP reports.

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.

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