Modi, who was speaking with Putin in Uzbekistan on the sidelines of a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, said now is not the time for war, and lambasted him for continuing to conduct attacks against Ukrainians nearly seven months into the war, according to Reuters.
Modi said this was not the first time he had expressed a distaste for Putin’s war. He said he has warned Putin he disapproved of the war over the phone on multiple occasions.
“Today's era is not one of war, and I’ve talked to you about this on the phone several times… in the coming days, how we move towards the path of peace—we will definitely have an opportunity to discuss this,” Modi said, according to a translation from the director of The India Project at the Brookings Institution, Tanvi Madan.
Modi cited concerns about food, fertilizer, fuel security, and supply issues. Putin acknowledged the prime minister’s concerns.
“I know about your position on the conflict in Ukraine, and I know about your concerns,” Putin said. “We want all of this to end as soon as possible.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin is feeling pressure from all sides to pull back from the war in Ukraine. The public rebuke from Modi comes just a day after Putin held a key face-to-face meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, during which Putin acknowledged publicly that Xi has “concerns” about the war in Ukraine.
Putin’s meetings with Modi and Xi were the first face-to-face meetings he has held with either since he launched the war in Ukraine earlier this year, and mark a rare moment in which key geopolitical partners are throwing warning shots to Putin that they are no longer confident in him and his decisions.
The public displays of mistrust could mark a key turning point in the war. India and China have both tended to abstain from publicly criticizing Russia since Putin launched the war. Both abstained from a vote on Russia at the United Nations that deplored Russia for the invasion.
Support for Russia’s war has never been certain. China has not explicitly endorsed the war in Ukraine, although Beijing previously suggested that it believes the United States is the main instigator of the war, echoing Kremlin talking points. The White House has raised concerns about China supporting Russia during the invasion and indicated early in the war that there would be consequences if China went too far.
Since then, the State Department has characterized China’s efforts to not run afoul of the United States while also not outright attacking Russia as verbal and “geopolitical gymnastics” as it tries to “avoid criticizing Russia’s war against Ukraine… openly.”
India, a top recipient of Russian arms, has worked to toe the line carefully as well. In recent months, as Russia has faced sanctions over the invasion, India has made efforts to make more equipment domestically, according to Reuters.
For Putin, the criticism is just the latest in a series of critiques lobbed his way as his forces have begun retreating from key territories while Ukrainian armed forces run successful counteroffensives. Ministers from Moscow and St. Petersburg have said he needs to step down. Ramzan Kadyrov, a Putin ally in Chechnya, has suggested he thinks Putin needs to change his tactics in the war. Putin himself has recently canceled a key meeting with Russian military advisers.