Western leaders snub G20 photo op with Russia’s Sergey Lavrov

The absence of a picture is worth a thousand words.

Foreign ministers of the G20 countries, who are meeting on the Indonesian island of Bali this week, did not take a customary group photo, after several Western leaders reportedly refused to be pictured with Russia’s Sergey Lavrov over his country’s invasion of Ukraine.

According to a report by Japanese news agency Kyodo, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken initiated the boycott of the traditional family photo, and was joined by his G7 colleagues. Western diplomats also refused to go to a dinner event on Thursday evening because Lavrov was attending, Kyodo reported. Retno Marsudi, Indonesia’s foreign minister, said the host nation understood and respected the decision, Reuters reported.

There may yet be time for a family photo on Friday, however, as Lavrov plans to leave the summit early.

The Russian foreign minister “is still holding bilateral talks, then he will speak to the press and leave,” Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told Germany’s DPA press agency. Lavrov won’t attend the afternoon meetings, or an official dinner on Friday night.

In an interview with Russia’s state channel Russia 24, broadcast on Friday, Lavrov appeared to confirm the Western snub.

“In terms of meeting with me, the declaration that they won’t be photographed with me — I never asked anyone to be photographed,” he said. “Yesterday, there was an reception that the Indonesians organized, it was sort of an introductory reception with a concert, and they [Western leaders] didn’t attend.”

Western leaders including Blinken and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock have shunned Lavrov at the Bali summit, refusing to meet with him, and the American, Canadian and European delegations walked out when Russian officials were about to speak, according to Kyodo.

But Lavrov did hold bilateral meetings with Turkey’s Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and China’s Wang Yi.

In a series of tweets on Friday, the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the meeting in Indonesia is taking place during a particularly “grave context following Russia’s appalling war against Ukraine.” He added: “In the face of aggression, no one can be neutral.”