Ukrainian, American and European officials leave the G-20 when Russia talks

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At least half a dozen world leaders, including U.S. and Ukrainian government officials, walked out of a Group of 20 meeting in Washington on Wednesday when Russian officials began speaking, multiple people familiar with the matter said.

Ukraine’s Finance Minister Sergii Marchenko also made a direct appeal to world leaders to provide his country with increased financial aid, shortly before he left the meeting with Western officials.

Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome H. Powell were among the world economic leaders who left when Russian officials started talking, the people said. Others leaving the meeting included Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister of Canada; Christine Lagarde, President of the European Central Bank; and senior economic officials from the Netherlands, England, France and Germany, said people familiar with the matter, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe a private meeting. Freeland also later publicly posted a photo of some of the officials who came out.

The dramatic departures reflected world leaders’ trepidation over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. While a number of nations have joined the walkout, several other G-20 members – including China and India – have not. The cracks highlighted the growing global division over whether and how to ostracize Russia from the international community because of the war.

Marchenko has asked world leaders to give Ukraine 10% of their Special Drawing Rights allocation – a reserve asset distributed by the International Monetary Fund that can be exchanged for dollars – to help the country survive the next three months of the war, according to a transcript of his remarks shared with The Washington Post. Ukraine also said countries can help support it through World Bank funding programs or direct grants.

Marchenko told world leaders that Russia is a disease for the international economy and that Ukraine is “those immune cells that need to be activated by good international medicine to kill the disease.” And there is no way out. Otherwise, the infection will spread and contamination will begin.

“That was my plea to them: we’re not asking you to support Ukraine for a long time; it is a temporary solution to help us win the war,” Marchenko said in a separate interview after the meeting, warning that the Ukrainian government will have to make severe budget cuts if international aid does not materialize.

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International finance ministers typically meet to discuss opportunities for cooperation on global development, taxes, agriculture and a range of other issues. But debates so far this year have been marred by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and debate over how the world should respond.

After the meeting, Freeland said on Twitter“This week’s meetings in Washington are aimed at supporting the global economy — and Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine is a serious threat to the global economy. Russia should not participate or be included in these meetings.

The G-20 does not currently have a process for expelling members, and even if it did, many non-Western members of the organization have made it clear that they would resist Russia’s expulsion. Yet many nations opposed to Russia’s invasion are seizing the G-20 as an opportunity to make clear the extent of their dissatisfaction with Moscow’s actions. Freeland personally told Russian staff members attending the conference that they served a government that had committed war crimes, according to two of the officials familiar with what happened at the meeting. Freeland also said the Russians should either persuade President Vladimir Putin to end the war or leave their government posts, the people said. Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov, who was placed under financial sanctions by the US government earlier this year because of the war, spoke remotely at the conference.

US and UK officials were expected to avoid their Russian counterparts. But the participation in the walkout of leaders from other nations reflected the degree of transatlantic unity against the war. Some of the officials at the G-20 meeting all but turned off their cameras when Russian officials spoke, two of the people said.

However, several governments refused to participate in the walkout. The Italians chose not to participate because Italy belongs to the G-20’s rotating leadership ‘troika’, made up of the organization’s current host and past and subsequent immediate hosts, according to a government official of the G-20 during the session, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive negotiations. This group is committed to keeping the G-20 open as an international forum, rather than a closed one.

The Treasury Department also announced additional sanctions on Wednesday, imposing new restrictions on Russian commercial bank Transkapitalbank and a global network run by a Russian oligarch.

After the G-20 meeting, Yellen issued a statement to the oversight committee of the International Monetary Fund – which world leaders are also in Washington to attend – calling on the global financial community to respond to the Russian invasion.

“Russia’s war on Ukraine has jeopardized the global recovery from the pandemic and worsened inflation, with vulnerable populations around the world feeling the effects of soaring food prices,” its statement said. . “Over the past two years, international financial institutions have provided unprecedented funding in response to COVID-19. Now they must step in to help low-income and developing countries respond to food and energy shocks caused by war, address the growing refugee crisis in Europe, and strengthen and rebuild an independent Ukraine.

Rachel Siegel and Loveday Morris contributed to this report.

correction

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the day the meetings took place. It was Wednesday, not Thursday.

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