Russian Ambassador Denis Alipov thanks Delhi for support on WWII Victory Day

Russian Ambassador Denis Alipov thanks Delhi for support on WWII Victory Day

As Russia and the U.S. increase war rhetoric over Ukraine, New Delhi steers clear of appearing to pick sides

Russia remains grateful for India’s contribution in the Second World War (WWII), said the Russian Ambassador to India as he called on all countries, including India, to “stay united” against “hidden geopolitical agendas”, in a special message issued on “Victory Day” (V-Day) to mark the end of the WWII in 1945. The Russian statement also came ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s travel this month to Tokyo to attend the Quad summit and a possible visit to Germany in June for the G-7 meet, where the U.S. and its allies are expected to increase pressure over India’s stand on Russia and Ukraine. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has, however, said that India’s stand on Ukraine, and its attempt at presenting a neutral stance has not changed “one bit” so far.

“Russia stands ready to respond to any threat to its national security,” Russian Ambassador Denis Alipov said, according to a statement released by the Embassy in Delhi. “We call on all countries to stay united against double standards, hypocrisy in international relations and hidden geopolitical agendas,” he added, in a veiled reference to Ukraine, where Russia has been targeted by Western countries for continuing an invasion since February 24, which includes bombing of civilian targets.

In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke at the Victory Day or “Pobeda” military parade, where he claimed Russian forces would win in Ukraine the way they had in WWII against Nazi forces.

“NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] countries did not want to listen to us, meaning that they in fact had entirely different plans, and we saw this. Openly, preparations were under way for another punitive operation in Donbas, the invasion of our historical lands, including Crimea,” Mr. Putin reportedly said, according to translated versions of his televised speech.

“Everything indicated that a clash with the neo-Nazis, the Banderites [Ukrainian Nazi sympathisers], backed by the United States and their junior partners, was inevitable,” Mr. Putin added, significantly referring to European members of NATO as “junior partners”.

Diplomatic experts say that Mr. Putin’s speech and the Russian Ambassador’s message reinforce Russia’s narrative since the beginning of the hostilities in Ukraine that entered the 75th day on Monday, adding that India needs to pay more attention to Russia and the U.S., and less to other countries in Europe and Asia, which “don’t matter as much”.

“India must deal with the U.S. and Russia as the main protagonists — be it in the G-7, Quad or G-20. The resolution to the Ukraine war will require a Russia-U.S. modus vivendi,” former Indian Ambassador to Moscow D.B. Venkatesh Verma told The Hindu. “The A-league should be our focus, we have to move past the B-teams in B-league,” he added.

Mr. Putin’s speech followed a day after G-7 members met virtually with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and pledged to end all imports of Russian oil in a “timely and orderly fashion”, indicating that they would bring forth their timelines to do so. Among those leading the pledge was Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who just completed a six-nation tour in Asia and Europe calling for tougher measures against Russia for its actions in Ukraine. Mr. Kishida is expected to host a Quad summit with Mr. Modi, U.S. President Joseph Biden and the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Tokyo on May 23-24, and is expected to try and forge more consensus on a tough line against Russia. American President Biden has also announced new sanctions against Russia and approved another weapons package for the Ukraine. However, New Delhi has refused to join sanctions against Russia, and according to a Reuters estimate, imported more Russian crude, about 40 million barrels, in two months of the war than it did in all of 2021.

Apart from the visit to Tokyo for the Quad summit, and the possible visit to the G-7 summit from 26 to 28 June at Schloss Elmau in the Bavarian Alps to which German Chancellor Olaf Scholz invited PM Modi to during his visit to Berlin last week, Mr. Modi is also expected to take part along with Mr. Putin at a virtual BRICS summit, hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping, in the third week of June. The travel plans indicate that despite the increasingly polarised rhetoric from both the Russian and the American sides in the war in Ukraine, Government of India is still steering clear of appearing to pick a side.

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