US hails G20 consensus on respecting nations' territorial sovereignty

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak chats with U.S President Joe Biden during a session of the G20 summit in New Delhi, India, Sept 9, 2023. [AFP]

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday hailed a consensus declaration reached at a summit of 20 of the world's largest economies that called for respecting sovereign states’ territorial integrity.

The declaration at the now-concluded event denounced the use of force to seize territory but stopped short of condemning Russia for its war on Ukraine. Russia invaded the neighboring country in February 2022.

In an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” program, Blinken said the statement by the G20 nations “strongly affirms the proposition that this is about Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.”

Despite the diminished tone toward Russian aggression compared to last year’s G20 talks, Blinken told CNN that there was consensus among the participants that “not only do they want to see this war end, but they want to see it end on just and durable terms.”
Blinken said the leaders made it clear that “the consequences of Russia’s aggression are being felt throughout the G20 countries and throughout the developing world.”

However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, during a press conference at the closing of the G20 summit in New Delhi, India, said excluding Russia from any talks on resuming a Black Sea grain deal would not be sustainable. The grain deal allowed Ukrainian grain to be exported via the Black Sea. Russia exited the deal in July.

Russia, Ukraine and Turkey are going to continue to discuss the grain deal “in order to support the global food security, food supply security,” Erdogan said.

When asked by VOA’s Ukrainian Service if Russia would increase its demands on Ukraine if Kyiv conceded to some of Moscow’s terms to revive the deal, Erdogan cited Moscow’s claim that the West has not kept to its promises on the deal brokered by the U.N. and Ankara.

Ukraine and its Western allies have dismissed the Kremlin’s demands as a ploy to advance its own interests.

Erdogan expressed agreement with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bid to send grain free of charge to African countries through Turkey and Qatar.

“When I had talks with Mr. Lavrov here, I reiterated that we should not limit this amount to one million (tons) and look for ways to increase it,” said Erdogan, referring to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

A key Russian demand to revive the grain deal has been the reconnection of the Russian Agricultural Bank, Rosselkhozbank, to the SWIFT international payments system. It was cut off by the European Union in June 2022 after Russia's invasion of Ukraine that year.

The Russian Agricultural Bank subsidiary in Luxembourg could immediately apply to SWIFT to "effectively enable access" for the bank to the international payments system within 30 days, the United Nations told Russia in a letter, seen by the Reuters news agency on Friday.

On Saturday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia needed its state agricultural bank -- and not a subsidiary of the bank, as proposed by the United Nations -- to be reconnected to the international SWIFT bank payments system.

"All our conditions are perfectly well known. They do not need interpretation, they are absolutely concrete and all this is absolutely achievable," Peskov told Reuters. "Therefore, Russia maintains its responsible, clear and consistent position, which has been repeatedly voiced by the president."

Russia’s exit from the deal in July came a year after it was brokered to combat a global food crisis the U.N. said was worsened by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Ukraine and Russia are both leading grain exporters.

Russia-held territories voting

Russian authorities on Sunday reported multiple attempts to sabotage voting in local elections taking place in occupied areas of Ukraine.

Kyiv and the West have denounced the balloting, calling it a sham and a violation of international law.

Voting ended earlier than scheduled in Russia-occupied Donetsk due to security concerns.

Russian electoral officials say forces loyal to Kyiv had previously killed pro-Moscow officials, blown up bridges and helped the Ukrainian military by identifying key targets.

Earlier, a drone strike destroyed one polling station in the Zaporizhzhia region, Nikolai Bulaev, the deputy chairman of Russia’s Central Election Commission, told reporters. He said there were no casualties as the staff was not present at the time.

Ella Pamfilova, who heads Russia's Central Election Commission, called the incident “a terrorist act" while speaking to reporters that same day. She alleged that a Western-supplied drone was used but gave no evidence.

In the neighboring Kherson region, a Russia-appointed official said that a live grenade was discovered on Saturday near a polling station. Maria Zakharova said the grenade was hidden in bushes outside the station, and that voting had to be halted while emergency services disposed of it.

Russian drone attacks

Russia launched about three dozen drones over Kyiv, Ukraine's capital, early Sunday. The early morning attack lasted about two hours, with debris falling over the city.
Meanwhile, the British defense ministry said Sunday Russia’s Pskov oblast, near the Estonian border, has organized “volunteer security patrols” to bring a stop to drone attacks against Kresty Air Base in Pskov.

The ministry said due to the limited range of quadcopter drones, the attacks on Kresty were almost certainly launched from Russia. The volunteer patrols will “likely” serve as a deterrence, according to the ministry.

The use of volunteers indicates that it is “highly likely” that there is a shortage of trained security personnel within Russia,” the ministry said.

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