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India grants Russian FM audience with Modi after rejecting UK request to stop buying discount Russian oil

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in May, 2018.

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  • Sergei Lavrov has arrived in India for two days of talks, including with Narendra Modi.
  • It comes just hours after Liz Truss’s plea for India to stop buying cheap Russian oil was rejected.
  • Another British minister has accused India of “sitting on the fence”.

India welcomed Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov for talks on Friday after rejecting the UK’s plea to cut its use on the country’s cheap oil. 

India’s external affairs minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar held lukewarm talks with UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss on Thursday, in which he shrugged off her request to buy discounted oil from Russia following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Lavrov’s delegation on Friday was granted an audience with India’s Prime Minister, a high-level engagement which Truss did not receive.

India was among a small number of nations that did not vote against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at the UN, opting to abstain. It has not joined Western efforts to sanction the Russian economy.

Speaking at a policy exchange economic forum in New Delhi, Truss warned that oil and gas revenues were helping to fund Vladimir Putin’s war efforts, according to the Guardian. 

She said: “If Putin was successful, if he was able to have success invading a sovereign nation, what message does that send to other aggressors around the world?”

While she did not name India, she praised countries such as Australia, South Korea and Singapore for participating in.

She said: “I think countries across the world, regardless of their specific size, status or structure, understand there is a fundamental problem if an aggressor can get away with invading a sovereign nation, and that does violate international law and violates the UN charter.”

But Jaishanker pushed back, by observing that European consumption of Russian gas was going up despite the sanctions regime.

Europe exempted Russia energy imports from the sanctions, a reflection of its heavy reliance on Russia for power.

Jaishanker said Europe had bought “I think, 15% more oil and gas from Russia, than the month before.”

During Friday’s meeting, the Russian foreign minister was expected to call on India to bypass Western sanctions and increased its purchases of Russian oil and gas, the BBC reported. 

There is no love lost between Truss and Lavrov. When the pair held talks aimed at averting Russia’s invasion, they gave a frosty press conference in which Moscow’s foreign minister branded the meeting “a dialogue of a mute person with a deaf person”.

During his two-day visit to India, which comes after a trip to China, Lavrov was also scheduled to meet Jaishankar, as well as India’s prime minister Narendra Modi, who did not meet Truss.

“We are living through a serious stage in the history of international ties. The outcome of this stage will substantially clarify the international situation. We will move towards a multipolar, equitable and democratic world order with China and like-minded nations,” Lavrov said ahead of his flight to New Delhi. 

Reporting the talks, local media outlet the Hindustan Times described Russia’s invasion as a “special military operation.” The phrase is the preferred terminology of the Kremlin, which has banned Russian media from using words like “invasion” or “war.”

On Thursday, British Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan was critical of India for having “chosen to sit on the fence”, although said she recognised “they have connections in both directions”. 

The minister told Sky News that “standing up for democratic nations and peaceful borders” was “something that we want to see everyone doing”. 

India’s neutrality during an invasion in which thousands have been killed does not sit easy, she said. 

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