Russian President Vladimir Putin faced concerted Western fire over the Ukraine crisis on Sunday at a testy G20 summit where geopolitical strains vied with debate on overhauling the global economy.
At the summit in Brisbane, Putin broke protocol by pre-empting the host leader in delivering remarks to the media.
The Russian strongman said “some of our views do not coincide, but the discussions were complete, constructive and very helpful”. Putin also thanked Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott for hosting the event, despite Abbott`s fiery rhetoric against him of late.
The Kremlin denied talk that Putin was walking out of the Brisbane meeting early out of pique at being ambushed over Ukraine, but Western pressure redoubled earlier Sunday with a joint declaration from the United States, Australia and Japan.
The trio`s leaders said after talks on the G20 margins that they were united in “opposing Russia`s purported annexation of Crimea and its actions to destabilise eastern Ukraine, and bringing to justice those responsible for the downing of Flight MH17”.
The West says the Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down by pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine in July, using a missile supplied by Russia. Moscow angrily denies the charges. The plane was carrying 298 people, including 38 Australian citizens and residents.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told Channel Ten that Putin had come “under quite some pressure” from a number of G20 leaders because of the downing of MH17 and Russia`s behaviour towards Ukraine.
She noted that Australia had been monitoring the presence of four Russian warships off its northern coast in recent days during the G20, which Moscow had deployed “just to remind everyone that Russia has a navy, I assume”.
The Group of 20 nations, which includes the United States and China, found agreement in vowing to “extinguish” the Ebola outbreak — albeit without any promise of hard cash — as it works to reboot growth in the world economy after the shock of the 2008 financial crisis.
The summit in Australia was wrapping up Sunday with a declaration that the leaders, who collectively represent 85 percent of global output, are committed to structural reforms that would lift economic growth by at least 2.0 percent over the next five years.
That amounts to more than two trillion dollars, although economists are sceptical that many of the G20 members have the stomach for such reforms when growth is already slipping in some key countries, including China and Germany.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who held lengthy, late-night bilateral talks with Putin in Brisbane Saturday, told reporters that the tensions over Ukraine were hindering efforts to boost economic growth.
“It’s clear that these geopolitical tensions, including relations with Russia, are not really conducive to promoting growth,” she said. “We are all striving to do everything diplomatically possible to see improvements.”Merkel was later Sunday due to join talks convened by Obama with the G20`s European leaders, including those of Britain and France, to look at issues including Ukraine and transatlantic trade, US and European aides said.