Russian President Vladimir Putin will leave the Group of 20 summit in Brisbane, Australia, a day early to attend meetings in Moscow, a member of his delegation told Reuters. Putin’s early departure comes after face-to-face pressure on the situation in Ukraine applied by Western leaders Saturday. Although the two-day summit is considered just a photo opportunity for world leaders, Ukraine is a hot topic on the table, and Western leaders threatened further sanctions against Russia should the country continue to throw logs on the fire in eastern Ukraine.
“I guess I’ll shake your hand, but I have only one thing to say to you: You need to get out of Ukraine,” Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper told Putin at the summit Saturday, Reuters said.
G-20 summit host and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott in particular had a bone to pick with Putin, as 38 Australians were believed to be among those 298 killed aboard the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 shot down over Ukraine. “It is our clear understanding on the evidence so far this plane was clearly shot down by Russian-backed rebels most likely using Russian-supplied equipment. I think there is heavy responsibility on Russia to come clean and to atone,” the Guardian quoted Abbott as saying at a press conference Friday. “Russia would be so much more attractive if it was aspiring to be a superpower for peace and freedom and prosperity, if it were trying to be a superpower for ideas and values, instead of trying to recreate the lost glories of tsarism or the old Soviet Union.”
Although the Russian president will miss a day of work at the G-20 summit, Putin said the country will not demand early repayment of the $3 billion it lent to Ukraine last year. The terms of the loan permit Russia to order early repayment if and when Ukraine’s debt tops 60 percent of its overall gross domestic product, Reuters reported. “If we do it [demand repayment], the whole financial system will collapse. We have already decided that we will not do it. We do not want to aggravate the situation,” Putin said in an interview with German TV channel ARD. “We want Ukraine to get on its feet at last.” According to Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Ukraine owes a total of $16 billion.
Meanwhile, Agence France-Presse reported Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko ordered the termination of all state services in eastern Ukrainian cities -- collectively a hotbed for pro-Russian separatists in their battle against Ukrainian forces: More than 4,100 people have been killed during seven months of fighting, according to the United Nations.
“This is a decisive step, the games have stopped,” an anonymous senior security official in Ukraine told AFP Saturday. “All the structures that the state finances will be withdrawn from there.” This decree includes schools, hospitals and emergency services.
Russia has consistently denied involvement in eastern Ukraine’s rebellion. According to the Wall Street Journal, U.S officials have accused Russia of violating the ceasefire agreement signed with Ukraine two months ago, but said there is no evidence to independently confirm a Russian invasion of its former Soviet Union neighbor. However, NATO announced this week it had seen evidence of Russia moving troops, equipment and arms across the border, the New York Times reported.