Ukraine update: Blinken, Lavrov engage in verbal fisticuffs at G20 meeting

by Chris Lange

Chris Lange, FISM News


Western leaders and Russia’s foreign minister exchanged accusations that the other side had destabilized the world in a heated war of words Thursday at a meeting of G20 foreign ministers in New Delhi.

A senior U.S. official who attended the meeting told Reuters that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to reverse its suspension of the New START nuclear treaty during a 10-minute encounter on the sidelines of the meeting.

Blinken also told Lavrov that the U.S. was prepared to support Ukraine to defend itself for as long as it takes, the official said.

The Russian foreign ministry office confirmed that Lavrov and Blinken spoke to one another “on the move” but stressed that they did not hold negotiations or an official meeting, per the report.

Western leaders urged the Group of 20 (G20) nations to continue pressuring Moscow to end the war, now in its second year.

Russia responded by accusing the U.S. and its allies of making a “farce” of the G20 agenda.

“We must continue to call on Russia to end its war of aggression and withdraw from Ukraine for the sake of international peace and economic stability,” Blinken said in remarks released after his address at the closed-door meeting.

“Unfortunately, this meeting has again been marred by Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified war against Ukraine,” Blinken said.


The months-long bloody battle for the city of Bakhmut in Ukraine may soon come to an end, though not in the way Kyiv or its allies had hoped. Ukrainian presidential advisor Alexander Rodnyansky said Wednesday that Ukrainian forces may “strategically” withdraw from the critical stronghold located in the Kremlin-annexed Donetsk province. 

“Our military is obviously going to weigh all of the options. So far, they’ve held the city, but if need be, they will strategically pull back,” Rodnyansky told CNN Wednesday. “We’re not going to sacrifice all of our people just for nothing.”

Reuters reported Thursday that the press service of Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of Russia’s Wagner mercenary force, posted a video to the Telegram messaging app that appeared to show his fighters walking about in what he said was the center of Bakhmut. The post quoted Prigozhin as saying:  “The lads are mucking about, shooting home video. They brought this from Bakhmut this morning, practically the center of the city.”

Kremlin-contracted Wagner fighters claimed control of nearby Soledar in January, leading Russia’s assault on Bakhmut. Wagner forces have encircled Bakhmut for weeks, pressing inward, village by village, in a series of what British and U.S. military analysts have called “incremental gains.”

The Washington D.C.-based Institute for the Study of War said in a January 21 war assessment that the capture of Bakhmut would likely not have a significant impact on the war. However, it would give Russia access to important routes leading to other parts of the Donetsk region: eastwards to the border with Luhansk, northwest to Sloviansk, and southwest to Kostiantynivka.

Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov told The Associated Press that Kyiv had sent in reinforcements to Bakhmut on Wednesday, possibly “to gain time” for strengthening Ukrainian firing lines on a hill in Chasiv Yar located approximately 9 miles west of the city.

Zhdanov said the possible withdrawal of Ukrainian forces from Bakhmut “will not affect the course of the war in any way” because of the firing positions in Chasiv Yar. He also said that the city, which lies in ruins, “no longer has strategic or operational significance.”

“In Bakhmut, the Russians lost so many forces — soldiers and equipment — that this city has already fulfilled its function,” Zhdanov said.


Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said Thursday that Ukrainian saboteurs had crossed into western Russia and attacked local villages in the Bryansk region, per The Associated Press.

Reports circulated on social media that the Ukrainians had allegedly taken several people hostage in a local store.

The FSB was quoted by the Russian state Tass news agency as saying that “activities to eliminate armed Ukrainian nationalists who violated the state border” were underway.

The AP was unable to verify the reports but noted that, if true, it would be the second indication in the same number of days that Kyiv is now bringing the fight into Russian territory. Reports of alleged Ukrainian drone strikes deep inside Russia Wednesday — including one that allegedly struck close to Moscow — exposed potentially shocking weaknesses in Russia’s defenses. Russian President Vladimir Putin had previously ordered the FSB to shore up security along its borders.


Elsewhere in Ukraine on Thursday, at least three people were killed, and six others injured, when a Russian missile hit a five-story apartment building in the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia. Some media reports indicated that four people had been killed in the attack.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said several floors of the building were destroyed in the early-morning strike.

The State Emergency Service said in an online statement that it had rescued 11 people so far.


Ukraine’s top military official predicted that Russia will have depleted its “military tools” long before achieving its war objections, according to an exclusive USA Today report.

“Russia has wasted huge amounts of human resources, armaments, and materials,” Maj. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov told the news outlet. “Its economy and production are not able to cover these losses.”

Budanov pointed to Russia’s frequent reshuffling of its military command as evidence of these struggles.

“If Russia’s military fails in its aims this spring, it will be out of military tools,” Budanov said.