Modi Urges Putin to Seek Peace After Attack on Ukraine Hospital

(Bloomberg) -- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called on his “friend” Vladimir Putin to seek a peaceful end to Russia’s war in Ukraine, a day after a deadly missile strike on a children’s hospital in Kyiv provoked international outrage.

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“Loss of life leads to despair especially when children are killed,” Modi told the Russian president in televised comments Tuesday at the start of their formal talks in the Kremlin. “Resolution can’t be found on the battlefield, peace needs to be pursued through dialog and diplomacy.”

Putin said they discussed the war during informal talks over dinner on Monday, and he thanked Modi for “trying” to find ways to resolve the conflict. Modi said their lengthy discussion yielded “several ideas” that left him “hopeful” of a way forward, without providing further details.

The Indian leader is on his first visit to Russia since Putin ordered the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, and also his first bilateral visit since winning a third term in elections last month. His arrival in Moscow came after at least 38 people were killed and nearly 200 wounded on Monday in a wave of Russian missile attacks on Ukraine, including a strike that hit the main children’s hospital in Kyiv.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy slammed Modi’s visit in a post on the social-media site X, saying it was “a devastating blow to peace efforts to see the leader of the world’s largest democracy hug the world’s most bloody criminal in Moscow on such a day.”

India has avoided censuring Russia for its war and abstained at United Nations votes on the issue, but has advocated diplomacy to resolve the conflict.

While Modi’s trip affirms longtime ties between New Delhi and Moscow going back to the Cold War era, it has drawn concerns from the US, which has sought to isolate Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

“We welcome people engaging with Russia about the war in Ukraine if they made clear to Russia that Russia needs to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,” US State Department Spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters Monday.

Senior Indian officials who didn’t want to be named said in response to the US’ statement that New Delhi has always respected the UN Charter including territorial integrity and sovereignty.

Modi posted photos of himself on X hugging Putin when they met Monday, saying he was looking forward to more talks “which will surely go a long way in further cementing the bonds of friendship between India and Russia.”

Moscow has laid out the red carpet for Modi. India is a major buyer of Russian oil and military hardware supplies. Maintaining the relationship is a balancing act for Modi, as India is seeking investment and technology from the US. Washington is also aiming for closer ties with India, which it sees as a regional counterweight to China.

Economic issues, energy supplies and manufacturing will dominate Modi’s visit, as the two countries look to bolster the relationship, Indian officials said.

Putin and Modi visited the pavilion of Russia’s state-owned Rosatom at an exhibition in Moscow earlier Tuesday. Rosatom and India “are in talks to construct six high-power nuclear power units as part of a new project as well as developing low-power nuclear plants in India,” according to the Russian embassy in New Delhi.

The South Asian country will open two new consulates in Russia — one in the city of Kazan and the second in Yekaterinburg, Modi said during an address to the Indian diaspora in Moscow. The two countries shared a “deep” and “time-tested” partnership, he said.

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