India's Modi to meet Ukraine's Zelenskiy on sidelines of G7 summit

By Krishn Kaushik

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Hiroshima, India's foreign ministry said on Friday, their first meeting since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

News of the meeting came hours after Modi left New Delhi for Hiroshima, where he will be the most Russia-friendly of global leaders assembled for a summit that is expected to put fresh pressure on Moscow and tighten sanctions against it.

India is invited to the summit as a guest and Modi's meeting with Zelenskiy is set for Saturday evening, the ministry said.

Ukraine's First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Emine Dzhaparova, who visited New Delhi in April, said Ukraine wanted India more involved in helping resolve its conflict with Russia.

"India stands on the side of peace, and will remain firmly there," Modi said in an interview with Nikkei Asia published on Friday, without referring to his meeting with Zelenskiy.

"We maintain communication with both Russia and Ukraine. Cooperation and collaboration should define our times, not conflict," Modi said.

New Delhi has refused to condemn its old ally Russia for the war in Ukraine and has increased its trade with Moscow to a record high, driven largely by the import of Russian oil.

Several Western leaders have criticised India's proximity to Russia as they try to isolate Moscow.

New Delhi says it is defending its own interests in buying Russian oil. It has also expressed its frustration at what it says is the world's preoccupation with the war in Ukraine when urgent action is needed to address global debt and poverty.

India has advocated a diplomatic solution to the conflict while Modi, in comments seen as mildly critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin, told him during a meeting in September that now was “not an era of war”.

Modi has spoken to both Putin and Zelenskiy by phone several times since the invasion, urging both to use dialogue and diplomacy to resolve their differences.

(Writing by YP Rajesh, Editing by William Maclean)