Russian President Vladimir Putin has left the G20 summit in Australia early, live footage showed, after he came under intense pressure from the West over Moscow’s alleged support for separatist fights in eastern Ukraine.
But Putin said his decision to leave early had nothing to do with tensions over Ukraine. Instead, he said he had a long flight and wanted to catch up on some sleep ahead of a full day’s work back home on Monday.
“We need nine hours to fly from here to Vladivostok and another nine hours from Vladivostok to Moscow,” he said in comments reported by the RIA Novosti news agency.
“Then we need to get home and return to work on Monday. There’s a need to sleep at least four to five hours.”
The two-day summit in Brisbane, which gathered leaders of the world’s most powerful economies, was focused on economic growth but was to some extent overshadowed by the tension over Ukraine.
Leaders at the event, who included US President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, committed to reform measures aimed at lifting their collective growth by an extra 2.1 percent by 2018.
“This will add more than $2 trillion to the global economy and create millions of jobs,” the leaders said in the summit communique.
The fact that the Russian President left before the official communique announcement could be seen as a snub, Al Jazeera’s Andrew Thomas, reporting from Brisbane, said.
“But it has been the case that he himself was snubbed by Western leaders,” Thomas said.
In unusually frank language between two leaders, Stephen Harper, the Canadian prime minister, was reported to have told Putin as they shook hands to “get out of Ukraine”.
According to Jason MacDonald, Harper’s spokesman, the prime minister told the Russian leader: “I guess I will shake your hand but I have only one thing to say to you: You need to get out of Ukraine.”
Russia accused of bullying
British Prime Minister David Cameron was among other leaders who publicly criticised Russia, accusing it of “bullying a smaller state in Europe” and warning that Moscow would face further sanctions if it continues “destabilising Ukraine”.
“I think what has been good about this G20 is that a very clear message has been delivered by the countries of the European Union and America to Russia about how we’re going to approach this in the months and years ahead,” Cameron told a news conference after the summit.
Putin, in remarks made before he left, thanked Tony Abbott for hosting the event, despite the Australian prime minister threatening to confront him over the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine in July.
The West says the Malaysia Airlines plane was downed by pro-Russian rebels, using a missile supplied by Russia. Moscow denies the charges. The plane was carrying 298 people, including 38 Australian citizens and residents.
The announcement of Sunday’s communique was delayed about an hour after Putin left.
“These events usually take place on time. It could be that Western leaders were still trying to formulate their response to his early departure,” Al Jazeera’s Thomas said.