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Russia's Lavrov meets Indian counterpart ahead of G20 talks

By Rupam Jain

NEW DELHI (Reuters) -Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held talks with his Indian counterpart on Wednesday, a day before attending the G20 foreign ministers' meeting in India, which has kept a largely neutral stance on Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

India has declined to blame Russia for the war, seeking a diplomatic solution and sharply boosting its purchases of Russian oil.

Besides meeting Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Lavrov also held talks with counterparts from Turkey, South Africa and Brazil, a senior Indian diplomat overseeing diplomatic engagements on the sidelines of the G20 meeting said.

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He is due to meet Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang later in the day.

"The G20 meeting has given Russia the opportunity to engage directly with many countries who wish and choose to continue trade with Russia," a Russian official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media.

Lavrov assessed the current security situation in the context of the Russia-Ukraine conflict and ironed out issues on the use of local currencies for settling trade during his hour-long meeting with Jaishankar, the Russian official said.

The Russian delegation is not planning contacts with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the sidelines of the G20 meeting, Moscow's RIA news agency reported, citing deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov.

Blinken is travelling to New Delhi after meetings with leaders of five Central Asian countries that used to be ruled by Moscow as part of efforts to rally the world to oppose Russia's invasion of Ukraine that began more than a year ago.

Ministers from Britain, the Netherlands and Malta and the EU's top foreign policy adviser told reporters in New Delhi that the success of the G20 meeting would be measured by what it achieves on Ukraine.

Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra, the top diplomat, said the conflict's impact on food, energy and fertiliser security will be discussed.

"It would not be correct to prejudge the outcome of the meeting," he said.

In a statement issued on Tuesday ahead of Lavrov's visit, the Russian embassy in New Delhi said the Russian side would describe in detail actions to reduce these threats and diversify foreign economic ties and logistics corridors.

Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 last year in what it calls a "special military operation" to "denazify" the country and protect Russian speakers.

India hosted a meeting of G20 finance ministers last week in the city of Bengaluru. It declined to raise the issue of the war but Western nations insisted they could not back any outcome that did not include a condemnation.

The lack of consensus among G20 members meant India resorted to issuing a "chair's summary and outcome document" in which it simply summed up the two days of talks and noted disagreements.

(Reporting by Rupam Jain, Neha Arora, Shivangi Acharya; Editing by Y.P. Rajesh and Nick Macfie)