This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.
Russian President Vladimir Putin officially confirmed he won’t be coming to Bali to attend the G20 summit next week, a senior official of host country Indonesia said Thursday, adding the decision was for “the best for all of us.”
Minister Luhut Pandjaitan was echoing analysts’ comments that Putin’s presence could cause tensions with Western leaders who oppose Russia’s war in Ukraine. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will go to Bali in Putin’s place, said Luhut, the coordinating minister of maritime and investment affairs
“We have been officially notified that the Russian president will not come,” Luhut told reporters, according to BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.
“We have to respect it. Whatever happened to Russia’s decision, it is for our common good and the best for all of us.”
Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” said this week that 17 leaders had confirmed their participation at the summit, including the American and Chinese presidents.
Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy will likely participate in the Bali summit via a video link, a local television channel quoted the presidential spokesman as saying on Tuesday. Ukraine is not a G20 member and its president will be participating as an observer.
Last week, Zelenskyy said he would not attend the Bali summit if Putin were present. In March, U.S. President Joe Biden urged Jokowi to invite Ukraine as a guest if Russia was not expelled from the Group of Twenty for invading its smaller neighbor in late February.
As this year’s holder of the rotating G20 presidency, Jokowi has sought unity within the grouping of industrialized and emerging economies ahead of the summit.
Western countries have condemned Russia for invading Ukraine while other G20 members including China, Indonesia and India have refused to follow suit and maintain ties with Moscow.
Russian setback in Ukraine
Putin’s decision not to attend the summit in person came a day after the withdrawal of Russian troops from Kherson, the city on the Dnipro River that is the front line of fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces.
A potential stalemate in fighting over the winter could give both countries an opportunity to negotiate peace, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Wednesday, the Associated Press news agency reported.
Indonesian Minister Luhut did not give a reason for Putin’s absence from the summit, merely saying “maybe it’s because President Putin is busy at home, and we also have to respect that,” AP reported.
Political analysts, however, attribute other motives for the Russian president’s decision to stay home.
“Putin’s absence from the G20 meeting in Bali is a net positive – every party stands to benefit,” Greg Barton, a professor at Deakin University in Australia, told BenarNews.
“Putin is fearful of a Kremlin coup – leaving Moscow at the moment is just too risky,” he said, adding that many members of the Russian elite wanted to see him go.
Radityo Dharmaputra, a political analyst at Airlangga University, echoed Barton’s observation.
“There are many considerations. There may be elements seeking to overthrow him because he hasn’t won the war,” he told BenarNews.