Putin Bristles as G20 Leaders Criticize Aggression in Ukraine

In his first address to officials from the Group of 20 leading economies since his invasion of Ukraine, President Vladimir V. Putin on Wednesday rebuffed criticism that the war’s aggression was “shocking” and accused Western nations of a double standard because of their response to the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Appearing at a virtual meeting of the G20, he called the war in Ukraine “a tragedy” that must be stopped and said Russia had “never refused” to engage in peace negotiations.

For Mr. Putin, it was a rare interaction with Western leaders since the start of the war last year. It was also the first time he had to listen to direct, public criticism of the invasion at an international event. Once he had a chance to respond, Mr. Putin could not hide his irritation.

“Some colleagues already in their speeches were saying that they were shocked by the ongoing Russian aggression in Ukraine,” Mr. Putin said. “Military actions are always a tragedy of specific people, families and the country as a whole and we need to think about ways to stop this tragedy.”

He delivered his eight-minute address at an event hosted by India as a follow-up to an in-person G20 gathering in September.

The plight of civilians in Gaza, which he called “an extermination,” was also shocking, he said, implying that the West was willing to overlook the aggression there. He also repeated Russia’s frequent line that Kyiv had acted aggressively against its own people in the Donbas in 2014, calling that shocking.

It was another example of a tactic Mr. Putin and other top Russian officials have resorted to in recent years: accusing the West of transgressions, often bending reality, as a way to deflect attention from their own.

Mr. Putin referred to the fighting in Ukraine as a war, instead of using the Kremlin’s euphemism of “special military operation.”

“I understand that this war, and the loss of life cannot but shock,” he said.

Mr. Putin repeated Russia’s official line that the Kremlin was ready to negotiate and blamed Ukraine for rejecting talks. “Russia has never refused peace talks with Ukraine,” Mr. Putin said. “It was Ukraine, not Russia, which publicly announced that it was withdrawing from the negotiating process.”

But for all his talk of negotiation, Mr. Putin has shown no willingness to relent from his goal of bringing Ukraine back under Russian dominance, let alone to reverse his declaration last year that four southern and eastern Ukrainian regions are part of Russia — including territory that Russia’s military does not control.

Ukraine has cited the need to liberate all of its territory occupied by Russia before it can negotiate for peace.

Mr. Putin also listed various grievances Russia holds against the West, such as the 2014 overthrow in Ukraine of its Russia-leaning president, Viktor F. Yanukovych.

The Russian leader’s address highlighted how the world has been fractured by the war.

When the G20 summit took place in September, the absence of Mr. Putin — as well as China’s leader Xi Jinping — was a clear indication of the breakdown of global consensus. While President Biden attended for the United States, Russia was represented by its foreign minister, Sergei V. Lavrov, and China by its premier, Li Qiang.

The war in Ukraine had cast a long shadow over India’s hosting of the G20 this year, with disagreements over the conflict making consensus difficult.

India, which was rotational host of the group this year, tried to keep the agenda focused on issues ranging from rising global debt to climate financing. Its leadership of the summit tested India’s balancing act between its historic ally, Moscow, and its growing relations with the United States and Europe as never before.

Delhi wanted to focus on the conflict’s economic toll on poorer nations. But during negotiations, Western nations, led by the United States, wanted to force condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine into discussions on every issue.