Plans for a “family photo” of world leaders at the G20 summit in Indonesia next week have been scrapped because presidents and prime ministers were unwilling to stand alongside an envoy of Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
For the first time at a gathering of the world’s 20 biggest economies, there will be no picture of the attendees lined up in rows and smiling for the cameras.
The Kremlin announced on Thursday that Mr Putin will not be present for the two-day summit in beach resort Bali, with the Russian delegation led instead by his foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.
But Mr Lavrov, who has been a leading public apologist for Mr Putin’s illegal war, is viewed as equally unacceptable to take part in the traditional line-up.
It has not been announced which world leaders raised objections to being pictured with Mr Lavrov. US president Joe Biden has led global condemnation of Russia’s aggression and Rishi Sunak has maintained the UK’s robust sanctions against Moscow.
Mr Lavrov is expected to face a hail of rebukes as world leaders face one another across the conference table for talks on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Moscow’s ministry of foreign affairs said he will voice Russia’s “readiness to remain a reliable supplier of food and energy to foreign markets on a commercial and humanitarian basis”.
But his words are likely to be treated with scorn by world leaders who blame Russia for upending the world’s fragile recovery after the Covid pandemic, fuelling global inflation and disrupting vital food supplies to vulnerable countries.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov explained Mr Putin’s no-show as being related to the his busy schedule and the need to stay in Russia. He said there were no plans for the Russian president to address fellow leaders remotely.
But Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky is expected to make a video address to the leaders of countries including the UK, US, China, India, France, Germany and Canada, after his spokesperson said he will join the summit “in some format”.
China’s president Xi Jinping will meet his counterparts Mr Biden and France’s Emmanuel Macron for talks on the margin of the summit, said Beijing.
The meeting with Mr Biden, which the White House said would take place on Monday, will be the pair’s first face-to-face meeting since he became president, though they previously met during the Obama presidency.