Canada’s finance minister, Chrystia Freeland, has told Russian officials at a meeting of G20 finance ministers that she held them personally responsible for “war crimes” committed during Russia’s war in Ukraine, a western official said.
Freeland directly addressed the Russian delegation taking part in the meeting of the Group of 20 major economies, telling them on Friday: “It is not only generals who commit war crimes, it is the economic technocrats who allow the war to happen and to continue, ” the official said.
Freeland, whose maternal grandparents were born in Ukraine, told the opening G20 session that the war was the “single biggest threat to the global economy right now”, the official said.
A day before the meeting, the US Treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, set the tone, calling Russia’s war in Ukraine the “greatest challenge” to the global economy and saying members of Putin’s government “have no place” at the talks.
“We are seeing negative spillover effects from that war in every corner of the world, particularly with respect to higher energy prices and rising food insecurity,” she said.
Yellen was expected to press G20 allies for a price cap on Russian oil to choke off President Vladimir Putin’s war chest and pressure Moscow to end its invasion while bringing down energy costs.
The two-day meeting of G20 finance ministers and central bank chiefs from top economies started on the resort island of Bali under the shadow of a war that has roiled markets, spiked food prices and stoked breakneck inflation, a week after Moscow’s top diplomat walked out of talks with the forum’s foreign ministers.
The talks’ host warned delegates that failure to tackle energy and food crises would be catastrophic.
In her opening remarks, the Indonesian finance minister, Sri Mulyani Indrawati, called on ministers to work together with a spirit of “cooperation, collaboration and consensus” because “the world is watching” for solutions.
“The cost of our failure is more than we can afford,” she told delegates. “The humanitarian consequences for the world and for many low-income countries would be catastrophic.”
Top global finance figures are to discuss the rebound from the coronavirus pandemic, but the impact of the Ukraine war – weighing on an already brittle global recovery – will top the agenda.
Both the Russian finance minister, Anton Siluanov, and the Ukrainian finance minister, Serhiy Marchenko, are participating virtually in the meeting.
Yellen in April led a multinational walkout of finance officials as Russian delegates spoke at a G20 meeting in Washington. No communication was issued at the end of that meeting.
It is unclear if a similar walkout will take place at this meeting.
There is also unlikely to be a final communique issued when talks end on Saturday because of disagreements with Russia.
The G20 chair, Indonesia – which pursues a neutral foreign policy – has refrained from uninviting Russia despite Western pressure.
Italy and Canada’s finance ministers are in attendance, but the Chinese finance minister, Liu Kun, and Britain’s new finance minister, Nadhim Zahawi, are only attending virtually.
The International Monetary Fund chief, Kristalina Georgieva, will appear in person after saying on Wednesday the global economic outlook had “darkened significantly” because of Moscow’s invasion.
The meeting is a prelude to the leaders’ summit on the Indonesian island in November that was meant to focus on the global recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Other issues to be tackled by the ministers include digital financial inclusion – with more than a billion of the world’s population still without access to a bank account – and the deadline for an international overhaul of tax rules.
With Reuters and Agence France-Presse
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism