Russia’s foreign minister has mocked reports that he was taken to hospital with a heart problem after arriving at the G20 summit in Indonesia. 

Sergei Lavrov, 72, was pictured arriving in Bali via jet late Sunday before local officials told journalists he had been taken ill early Monday with a ‘heart condition’.

But Lavrov, who is standing in for President Vladimir Putin at the summit, appeared in photos and videos shortly afterwards showing him sitting by his hotel pool and leafing through papers ahead of the economic conference, which begins tomorrow.

Accusing Western media of lying about his health, Lavrov told the camera: ‘They’ve been writing about our President being sick for the last 10 years. This is a game, and not a new game in politics.’

However, the diplomat – who was being questioned by foreign ministry spokesman Maria Zakharova, standing off camera – did not specifically deny visiting hospital.  

Lavrov is attending the G20 after Putin opted not to go following his invasion of Ukraine. The Kremlin says the president is ‘too busy’ to go, but political analysts in Russia have speculated that he is afraid of being humiliated or assassinated.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, 72, has insisted he is in good health and in his hotel (pictured) amid reports he was taken to hospital shortly after arriving at the G20 summit

Lavrov was filmed by foreign ministry spokesman Maria Zakharova sitting by his hotel pool doing paperwork, though did not specifically deny having visited hospital

Lavrov was filmed by foreign ministry spokesman Maria Zakharova sitting by his hotel pool doing paperwork, though did not specifically deny having visited hospital

Lavrov arrived in Bali late Sunday (pictured) just hours before local officials said he was taken to hospital suffering a heart condition

Lavrov arrived in Bali late Sunday (pictured) just hours before local officials said he was taken to hospital suffering a heart condition 

Maria Zakharova, Moscow’s foreign ministry spokesman who is in Bali with Lavrov, dismissed reports of a hospital visit as ‘the height of fakery’. 

The last time Putin found himself isolated at a G20 summit was in 2014, soon after he seized Crimea – and he was so shunned that he left early.

Eight years later, after launching a full-scale offensive in Ukraine in February and threatening the West with nuclear weapons, the 70-year-old Russian leader chose to skip this week’s G20 meeting on the tropical island of Bali altogether.

Observers say the Kremlin is seeking to shield the Russian leader from a storm of condemnation in Indonesia but Putin’s no-show risks further isolating a country already battered by unprecedented Western sanctions.

Alexei Malashenko, chief researcher at the Dialogue of Civilisations Institute, said Putin did not want to be publicly humiliated once again, recalling that at the Brisbane summit in 2014 Putin was placed at the far flank of the ‘family photo’.

‘At the summit, you have to talk to people and be photographed,’ said Malashenko.

‘And who is he going to talk to and how exactly will he be photographed?’

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak began the summit – his first since becoming Prime Minister – by branding Russia a ‘rogue state’.

The UK and EU have called on partners and allies to refuse to engage with Lavrov and are believed to be planning a walk-out when he addresses the conference.

Volodymyr Zelensky is also expected to address the G20 via video link, and will almost certainly add to the international condemnation. 

The G20 gathering will inevitably be overshadowed by Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine, which has shocked global energy markets and aggravated food shortages.

Fyodor Lukyanov, a foreign policy expert close to the Kremlin, indicated that Putin was not ready to budge over Ukraine.

Lavrov, 72, arrived in Bali for the summit late Sunday (pictured) but had been taken to hospital just hours later, the meeting's Indonesian hosts said

Lavrov, 72, arrived in Bali for the summit late Sunday (pictured) but had been taken to hospital just hours later, the meeting’s Indonesian hosts said

Vladimir Putin has shunned the summit - officially because he is 'too busy' to attend though analysts in Russia have speculated he fears being humiliated or even killed

Vladimir Putin has shunned the summit – officially because he is ‘too busy’ to attend though analysts in Russia have speculated he fears being humiliated or even killed

‘His position is well known, it will not change. The other side’s position is also well known,’ said Lukyanov, editor of the Russia in Global Affairs journal. ‘What’s the point of going?’

The Kremlin blamed Putin’s absence on scheduling conflicts, without specifying what prompted the Russian leader to skip one of the highest-profile global summits. 

The Kremlin said that Putin would not even address the summit by video link.

By comparison, Zelensky is expected to lobby global leaders for a stronger response to Russia’s assault.

The Russian delegation will be headed by Moscow’s top diplomat Sergei Lavrov.

The pugilistic foreign minister walked out of a G20 meeting in Bali in July after Russia’s offensive in Ukraine was condemned, and he can expect another icy reception.

Political analyst Konstantin Kalachev said Putin’s refusal to travel to Bali reflected ‘a sense of a dead end’ over Ukraine.

‘He’s got nothing to say,’ Kalachev said. ‘He has no proposal on Ukraine that could satisfy both sides.’

Despite mobilising hundreds of thousands of reservists in September, the Russian armed forces have suffered setback after setback in Ukraine.

In September, the Russian army had to withdraw from the northeastern region of Kharkiv.

On Friday, Russia announced it was pulling its forces from the strategic southern port city of Kherson in a new humiliation for the Kremlin. Peace talks have been put on ice.

Shunned by most Western leaders, Putin seeks to deepen ties with countries that have traditionally enjoyed good ties with Moscow or those that also rail against the dominance of the United States in global affairs.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak branded Russia a 'rogue state' ahead of the summit and had joined with the EU in urging people to shun Lavrov

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak branded Russia a ‘rogue state’ ahead of the summit and had joined with the EU in urging people to shun Lavrov

Russia has become an international pariah state since Putin ordered his troops across the Ukrainian border on February 24 (pictured, a protest in Rome at the weekend)

Russia has become an international pariah state since Putin ordered his troops across the Ukrainian border on February 24 (pictured, a protest in Rome at the weekend)

‘In Putin’s view, his refusal to go to the G20 summit will not prevent Russia from building relations with neutral states,’ said Tatiana Stanovaya, the founder of R.Politik, a political analysis firm.

‘Putin believes that Russia’s anti-American line is finding a lot of support.’

The Kremlin insists that Russia is far from isolated, and Stanovaya pointed out that Putin has been seeking allies in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

‘He is trying to build an anti-Western coalition,’ she said.

Many political observers are sceptical that the Kremlin chief will succeed. After Putin sent troops to Ukraine on February 24 no major nation has rallied behind Russia, including China.

Russia’s assault on Ukraine also spooked Moscow’s neighbours in Central Asia and prompted countries such as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to look for alliances elsewhere.

Kalachev said Russia’s confrontation with the West had pushed it to the margins of world politics and decision-making on pressing issues such as climate change.

‘It is not a pariah country, like North Korea,’ he said, ‘but Russia is no longer part of the world agenda that is not related to the topic of World War III.’



Source link