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Thursday 7 December 2023 Dublin: 10°C
skipping lunch

And he's off... Vladimir Putin's heading home from the G20 early

Putin’s camp deny that the Russian President is bowing out under pressure from Western leaders, who have accused him of “bullying” Ukraine.

VLADIMIR PUTIN INTENDS to cut short his attendance at the Group of 20 summit in Brisbane tomorrow, a Russian source said — as the strongman faces intense pressure from the West over Ukraine.

“The programme of the second day (for Putin) is changing, it’s being cut short,” a source in the Russian delegation told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Putin will attend summit sessions on Sunday but will skip an official lunch and address reporters earlier than planned, the source said, adding:

“Lunch is more of an entertainment.”

The source denied that Putin was bowing out under pressure from top Western leaders, who accused him of “bullying” ex-Soviet Ukraine.

“There were no scandals,” the source said.

A Kremlin spokesman said earlier on Russian radio: “The G20 summit will be over tomorrow, Putin will certainly leave it, when all the work is completed the president will leave.”

He denied that pressure from Western leaders, who have threatened Russia with more sanctions if fighting in eastern Ukraine intensifies, forced Putin to change plans.

“Sanctions are being actively and broadly discussed at all bilateral meetings but no one is putting pressure,” Peskov said.

“This is complete nonsense,” he told Russian reporters separately. “This is a usual, routine situation.”

Putin is facing huge pressure from top Western leaders over Russia’s support for a separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine, with British Prime Minister David Cameron accusing Russia of “bullying a smaller state in Europe.”

Pablo Martinez Monsivais ... Ban Ki-Moon speaks with Putin at the G20 summit Pablo Martinez Monsivais ... Ban Ki-Moon speaks with Putin at the G20 summit

During a closed-door meeting between Cameron and Putin earlier today, the British prime minister had warned that the Russian strongman had a choice to make, according to a Downing Street source.

“The prime minister was clear at the start of the Ukraine discussions that we face a fork in the road, in terms of where we go next,” the source said, quoted by British media.

“We can either see implementation of the Minsk agreement and what follows from that in terms of an improvement of relations,” the source said, referring to peace accords.

Or we can see things go in a very different way in terms of relations between Russian and the UK, Europe and the US.

The West accused Russia this week of sending fresh military hardware into eastern Ukraine, fuelling fears of a return to all-out conflict.

In an apparent sign of palpable tensions between the two leaders, Putin and Cameron chose to conduct their meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit behind closed doors.

They greeted each other and shook hands but eschewed any pleasantries in front of the cameras, waiting for reporters to leave the room before they started speaking, Russian news agencies said.

The Kremlin however sought to put a positive spin on the meeting, saying that Putin and Cameron expressed mutual interest in seeing Russia and West mend fences.

‘Lost glories of tsarism’ 

“Vladimir Putin and David Cameron noted interest in restoring ties between Russia and the West and adopting efficient measures to settle the Ukraine crisis which will facilitate the renunciation of confrontational sentiments,” the Kremlin said in a statement.

AP / Press Association Images ... US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping. AP / Press Association Images ... US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping. / Press Association Images ... US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Peskov, speaking to Russian reporters, added:

“They also spoke about the fundamental reasons for the current discord in ties between Russia, the United States and a number of European countries.”

Going into the summit, US President Barack Obama said Russia’s aggression against Ukraine was “a threat to the world” and called the shoot-down of MH17 over the rebel-held east of the ex-Soviet country in July “appalling”.

The G20 host, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, for his part, accused Putin of trying to relive the “lost glories of tsarism”.

- © AFP, 2014

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