Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is meeting his counterparts in China and India this week — two countries under pressure to condemn Russia’s actions in Ukraine as the death toll from the unprovoked conflict rises.
Lavrov met first with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Wednesday before a planned flight to India on Thursday, in only his second trip abroad since the Russian invasion began on Feb. 24.
On paper, Lavrov’s meeting with Wang was ostensibly about the turmoil in Afghanistan. But one expert said it was “inconceivable” they wouldn’t discuss the situation in Ukraine, including harsh sanctions imposed by the international community on Russia and its ally Belarus.
“It is inconceivable that the sides will avoid Ukraine in their discussions, whatever they say the focus of the visit is about,” said Steve Tsang, director of SOAS China Institute at the University of London, ahead of the visit.
Lavrov’s trip will offer him the opportunity to gauge the state of Russia’s relations with China and India as they come under increasing international scrutiny over their lack of forceful response to Moscow.
Both China and India have refused to condemn Russia’s brutal invasion outright, and both abstained from voting on United Nations resolutions demanding Moscow immediately stop its attack on Ukraine.
By the end of Lavrov’s first day in China on Wednesday, Beijing had made its stance clear.
“There is no ceiling for China-Russia cooperation, no ceiling for us to strive for peace, no ceiling for us to safeguard security and no ceiling for us to oppose hegemony,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin, according to state-run news agency Xinhua.