Russian President Vladimir Putin was reportedly set to walk out of the G20 summit in Australia a day early after drawing a series of rebukes over Ukraine and threats of further sanctions from Western leaders, but a Kremlin spokesman now says Putin plans to stay.
A member of Putin's delegation told Reuters that Putin was planning to cut out on a working session Sunday during the second half of the two-day world leaders forum because he had business to attend to in Moscow. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov later denied reports of Putin's early exit. "This is wrong," Peskov said. "The president is taking part in all the (G20) events."
Putin has received a cool welcome since arriving in Brisbane over the weekend, receiving terse words from fellow delegates, including President Barack Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and British Prime Minister David Cameron.
During a speech at Queensland University ahead of the summit, Obama blasted Russia's involvement in escalating the conflict in Ukraine, which has so far killed over 4,000 people, calling it a "threat to the world."
US President Barack Obama delivered a speech at the University of Queensland on Saturday, November 15, ahead of the G20 leaders' summit. Video courtesy ABC Australia.
The US leader also commiserated with Australians over the "appalling shoot-down" of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine by suspected Moscow-backed rebels in July. All 298 people on board died in the attack, including 38 Australians.
"As your ally and friend, America shares the grief of these Australian families and we share the determination of your nation for justice and accountability," Obama said.
Later at the summit, Putin received another social blow from Harper as he reached out to shake the Canadian Prime Minister's hand.
"I guess I'll shake your hand, but I have only one thing to say to you: You need to get out of Ukraine," Harper said to Putin, according to the prime minister's spokesman, Jason MacDonald.
"I can say that he did not respond positively," MacDonald wrote of Putin's reaction in an email to the Associated Press.
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy indicated separately that European leaders would later discuss possible further financial sanctions against Russia over its alleged military escalations and support of the separatist uprising in Ukraine.
"Russia still has the opportunity to fulfill its Minsk agreements and choose the path of de-escalation, which could allow sanctions to be rolled back," Von Rompuy said, referencing the September 5 ceasefire agreement signed between pro-Russian separatists, Kiev, and Moscow. "If it does not do so however, we are ready to consider additional action."
Russia has repeatedly denied accusations about its involvement in Ukraine, including that it sent thousands of troops and weapons across the border this summer. But these denials were again brushed off by Western leaders over the weekend.
Cameron also weighed in on the issue at the summit, saying that if the world continues to "see Russian troops and Russian tanks inside Ukraine," then there would "have to be a very different relationship" between Moscow and Europe.
Later, as leaders assembled for the "family photo," Putin was placed on the far outer right of the other heads of state, and away from Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who threatened to "shirtfront" rugby tackle the Russian leader last month over MH17.
Local media designated Putin's banishment to the edge of the frame as relegation to "social Siberia," although Abbott, who has a diplomatic edge as the host leader of the G20, was all smiles and handshakes with Putin in earlier photo opportunities throughout the day.
This story was updated at 1:45pm ET
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