President Vladimir Putin intends to leave the G-20 Summit in Australia earlier than scheduled, according to people familiar with his plans, as some leaders demanded Russia stop arming rebels in Ukraine.
Putin plans to skip an official lunch tomorrow and bring forward his news conference before leaving Brisbane, two people said on condition of anonymity because the travel plans are private.
Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, said by phone he couldn’t rule out an early departure for the president if the working part of the G-20 agenda was over because he has meetings “on Monday in Moscow and the flight is very long.”
The crisis in Ukraine has overshadowed the G-20 summit, where European leaders today called on Russia to stop supplying separatists in the country and warned of possible further sanctions. The Russian leader got a blunt message when he approached Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper for a handshake at the meeting.
“I guess I’ll shake your hand but I have only one thing to say to you: you need to get out of Ukraine,” Harper told Putin, the prime minister’s spokesman Jason MacDonald said in an e-mail. Putin told Harper that would be impossible because Russian troops aren’t there, Peskov said.
Russia, which annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March, has repeatedly denied that it’s sending its armed forces into Ukraine or aiding the separatists.
“There is no aggression” on Russia’s part, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters today in Brisbane.
“There are many turbulent moments in the world today,” Putin said at the start of his meeting today with French President Francois Hollande. “In some issues we have different positions. All the more it is useful to meet and talk about all these issues and I think to do everything to minimize risks.”
The Ukraine crisis is the worst standoff between Russia and its former Cold War foes since the Iron Curtain fell 25 years ago.
U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and Putin had a robust exchange during one-on-one talks that lasted 50 minutes, a U.K. official said, asking not to be identified because they aren’t authorized to speak publicly.
Fork in Road
Cameron made clear there was a fork in the road and Russia should honor the Sept. 5 truce signed in Minsk or face further sanctions, the official said. The British prime minister earlier told Sky News that Russian warships that sailed toward northern Australia ahead of the G-20 meeting were symbols of “international machismo.”
G-20 host Prime Minister Tony Abbott has accused Russia of supplying the weapons used to shoot down Malaysian Airline System Bhd. Flight 17 over Ukraine in July.
As Abbott addressed leaders today, Putin was seated at the other end of the room. That’s a far cry from his central position at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing this week, where he and President Barack Obama flanked Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
While Abbott posed for pictures with Obama, Xi, Cameron and Harper at a barbecue lunch today, Putin sat with Brazil’s Dilma Vana Rousseff across the other side of a table for six.
When the leaders later walked one-by-one into the Brisbane venue for an official summit welcome from Abbott, Putin was toward the end of the line. As they shook hands Abbott clasped Putin on the shoulder and the two smiled and chatted briefly as they posed for photographs.
Obama called Russian “aggression” in Ukraine a threat to global security and in a speech at the University of Queensland said the shooting down of the Malaysian airliner over Ukraine had appalled the world.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who will meet alone with Putin later today, told reporters the situation in Ukraine “is not satisfactory.”
European foreign ministers meeting Nov. 17 in Brussels will discuss expanding the list of individuals targeted as part of sanctions on Russia, she said.
“We will continue to use all diplomatic tools, including sanctions, at our disposal” to end the crisis, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy told reporters in Brisbane today. “Russia must stop the inflow of weapons and troops,” he said.
When the Russian leader arrived at his Brisbane hotel late yesterday in a motorcade that stretched to about 20 vehicles, there was a crowd of about 200 people outside and a large police presence. The crowd mostly cheered as his car pulled in, and many people were taking pictures of themselves in front of the hotel.
Source: BLOOMBERG / Nov. 15, 2014