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Vladimir Putin left the G20 summit in Brisbane, Australia before its conclusion after days of criticism from other world leaders over his continued interference in Ukraine’s affairs. He said he had finished his business at the summit, and needed to get back to Russia for some sleep before starting work on Monday.
Putin met five leaders, among them Angela Merkel of Germany and David Cameron of the UK, who put pressure on him to stop supporting separatists in Ukraine. He refused to give in to their demands. He instead blamed Ukraine for placing economic sanctions against regions that have declared their independence in the eastern part of the country. Putin criticized those calling for sanctions against Russia. He said that they would work against Ukraine as well. He said politics seem to have clouded the minds of western leaders in their attempts to bankrupt Russian banks through sanctions.
UK Prime minister David Cameron said that Putin was showing signs of flexibility towards recognizing Ukraine’s existence as an independent country. He said the Russian leader seemed to be warming up to the fact that the European Union had recognized Ukraine’s existence as a sovereign state, as long as there was not going to be an international military presence in the country.
On a previous occasion at the summit, when Putin extended his hand to Stephen Harper, the Canadian prime minister, he received more than a handshake. Harper shook his hand, and asked Putin to get out of Ukraine. The incident happened on Saturday after Harper had spoken to other world leaders. U.S president Barrack Obama called Russia’s interference in Ukraine a threat to world peace. He said effects of the sanctions were being felt in Russia. He added that the U.S would support removing sanctions if Russia resorted to resolving the conflict diplomatically.
President Obama told Harper that as a friend and an ally, the U.S shared his desire to find justice for the Canadians who died when Ukrainian separatists shot down a Malaysian passenger plane in July. Russia is suspected to have supplied the missile that brought down the plane. EU president Herman Van Rompuy said the Russian president needs to stop aiding the separatists and also pull out Russian troops from Eastern Ukraine. He added that if Russia failed to adhere to the Minsk agreement, additional sanctions will be considered. Vladimir Putin’s early departure from the G20 summit without making a commitment to cease supporting separatists in Eastern Ukraine may be interpreted as sign of defiance that will likely prompt the leaders at the summit to increase sanctions.
The crisis in Ukraine deepened early this month when separatist commander Alexander Zakharchenko declared that the Donetsk Peoples Republic would be an autonomous country following a vote taken that passed to elect a prime minister. The contested area is crucial to Ukraine’s economic existence as it accounts for 16 percent of the country’s GDP.
Following the declaration, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Ukraine’s prime Minister, announced that Ukraine would cut off state funding to Donetsk since the vote violated the Minsk peace agreement signed in September. NATO estimates there are more than 300 Russian troops in Ukraine preparing the separatists for possible attacks. Vladimir Putin’s early exit from the G20 summit after defying requests to cease interfering in Ukraine’s affairs leaves open a window for world leaders to consider more sanctions against Russia. According to Putin, they are hurting, but not that much.
By Benedicto Ateku