Senior officials from Britain, the United States and Canada walked out on Russia’s representatives at a Group of 20 meeting on Wednesday with many members condemning Moscow’s war in Ukraine, exposing deep divisions within the bloc of the world’s major economies.
Indonesia’s finance minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati, who chaired the meeting of G20 finance officials in Washington on Wednesday, acknowledged the body faced unprecedented challenges but called for cooperation to overcome headwinds slowing global growth.
“This is an extraordinary situation,” Indrawati told reporters after the daylong meeting. “It’s not business as usual, a very dynamic and challenging one.”
The G20 includes Western countries that have accused Moscow of war crimes in Ukraine, as well as China, India, Indonesia and South Africa which have not joined Western-led sanctions against Russia over the conflict.
Indrawati said many countries spoke out against the war at the meeting, although she did not identify them.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told attendees she strongly disapproved of a senior Russian official’s presence at the meeting before she walked out, joined European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde amongst others.
Ukrainian officials, presently in Washington seeking billions of dollars of additional funding, also walked out of the meeting.
Russian Deputy Finance Minister Timur Maksimov represented Moscow in person.
Over five million Ukrainians have fled abroad since Russia invaded on 24 February, marking the biggest attack on a European state since World War II.
The United States accuses Russia of committing war crimes in what Moscow calls a “special military operation”. Russia denies the allegations.
G20 suspends ‘business as usual’
Russia’s finance ministry did not mention the walkout in a statement issued after the meeting, but complained about the damaging effect of Western sanctions.
“Another aspect of the current crisis is the undermining of confidence in the existing international monetary and financial system,” it said. “The safety of international reserves and the possibility of free trade and financial transactions are no longer guaranteed.”
Meanwhile, Christine Lagarde urged Maksimov to convey to Moscow a clear message: End the war in Ukraine.
G20 finance ministers and central bank governors met on the sidelines of a semi-annual conference held by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Washington, with the Ukraine war, food security and ongoing recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic the key topics.
Given the divisions, the group did not issue a communique.