G20 squabbles over war in Ukraine as West tightens sanctions

By Shivangi Acharya and David Lawder

BENGALURU (Reuters) – Financial leaders of the world’s leading economies tried on Friday to bridge differences over how to deal with Russia after invading Ukraine a year ago, as the West tightened sanctions on Moscow.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen accused Russian officials of “complicity” in war atrocities at the two-day Group of Twenty (G20) meeting in the Indian city of Bengaluru.

But to underscore divisions with those nations that have not joined forces to isolate Russia’s economy, the meeting with host India avoided mention of the year-long war in opening remarks and said the global economy faces a number of other challenges.

“I would like to urge that your discussions should focus on the world’s most vulnerable citizens,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, adding that stability, confidence and growth must be brought back to the global economy.

Modi cited the fallout from the COVID pandemic, rising debt levels, supply chain disruptions, and threats to food and energy security as key concerns.

India does not want the bloc to discuss sanctions against Russia and is also urging not to use the word “war” in any communiqué, G20 officials told Reuters.

But French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said there was no way the group could back down from a joint statement agreed at a G20 summit last November in Bali, Indonesia, which noted that “most members support the war sharply condemned in Ukraine”.

“Either we have the same language or we don’t sign the final communiqué,” Le Maire told reporters.

Such deadlocks have become increasingly common in the G20, a forum created over 20 years ago in response to past economic crises but recently hampered by differences between Western nations and others, including China and Russia.

On the first anniversary of the Russian invasion, Yellen called on the G20 economies to redouble their efforts in support of Ukraine and limit Russia’s war-fighting capabilities.

“I urge Russian officials here at the G20 to understand that their continued work for the Kremlin makes them complicit in Putin’s atrocities,” Yellen said in a comment to the meeting.

Canada’s Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland has also personally rebuked the Russians, according to a Western official familiar with her comments.

She said in Russian: “You are apparatchiks, you are economists – you are not soldiers. But you still bear personal responsibility for this criminal war. We know who you are and we won’t forget it,” said Freeland, who is of Ukrainian descent.

Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov and Central Bank Governor Elvira Nabiullina did not attend, Moscow was represented by deputies. Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “military special operation”.


The leaders of the wealthy G7 democracies issued a statement pledging to steadily tighten sanctions against those supporting the Russian war effort after holding a virtual meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

“We will maintain, fully implement and expand the economic measures already imposed,” read the statement from current G7 President Japan, who noted that work will be done to withdraw diamond export revenues from Russia.

Separately, Washington released details of new measures it is taking, which target not only Russia but also “third-country actors” in Europe, Asia and the Middle East who support Russia’s war effort.

“We will sanction additional actors associated with Russia’s defense and technology industries, including those responsible for replenishing Russian stockpiles of sanctioned goods or enabling Russian sanctions circumvention,” it said.

Britain has also imposed other sanctions on Russia, including export bans on all items it used on the battlefield and import bans on iron and steel goods.

But European Union countries were still struggling to resolve disagreements over a new set of EU sanctions against Russia, diplomatic sources told Reuters. They made a new offer on Friday after talks collapsed late Thursday.

The G20 bloc includes the G7 countries as well as Russia, China, India, Brazil and Saudi Arabia.

UK Treasury Secretary Jeremy Hunt told reporters that focusing the G20 talks on Ukraine did not mean neglecting other issues.

“Ultimately, there can be no progress in these other areas unless we solve the global security threats,” he said.

Both China and India have seen a surge in trade with Russia in the wake of sanctions, with New Delhi sharply increasing its purchases of cheaper Russian oil.

The meeting comes amid signs the global outlook has improved since the last G20 summit in October, when a number of economies teetered on the brink of recession amid energy and food price spikes.

The G20 meeting is also expected to hold talks on debt relief for troubled countries, with mounting pressure on China, the world’s largest bilateral creditor, and other nations to take a big haircut on loans.

In a video address before the meeting, China’s Finance Minister Liu Kun reiterated Beijing’s position that the World Bank and other multilateral development banks participate in debt relief by cutting debts jointly with bilateral creditors.

(Reporting by David Lawder, Aftab Ahmed, Shivangi Acharya, Sarita Singh, Swati Bhat, Christian Kraemer and Shilpa Jamkhandikar; Writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Mark John; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Catherine Evans)


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