Finance ministers from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and other countries participated in a walkout to protest Russia during a G20 meeting in Washington, DC on April 20, 2022.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen led a multi-nation walkout of a meeting on Wednesday of finance officials from the world’s richest countries when Russian officials spoke, in protest against Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Moscow’s attack on its neighbour loomed over the meeting of G20 finance ministers and central bank governors, the first since President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion in late February.

British, French and Canadian officials joined the boycott, officials confirmed, underscoring the boiling tensions at the gathering.

“Multiple finance ministers and central bank governors including Ukraine Finance Minister (Sergiy Marchenko) and Secretary Yellen walked out when Russia started talking at the G20 meeting,” a source familiar with the event told AFP. “Some finance ministers and central bank governors who were virtual turned their cameras off when Russia spoke.”

The Group of 20 convened on Wednesday to address global challenges like rising debt and a possible food crisis, but discussions have been overshadowed by the war.

Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland tweeted a picture of the officials who left the meeting, saying, “The world’s democracies will not stand idly by in the face of continued Russian aggression and war crimes.”

And during the meeting, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire called on Russian delegates to refrain from attending the sessions, saying “war is not compatible with international cooperation”.

The boycott underscores the tumult facing the G20, and experts see little chance at this meeting for the bloc to find consensus on global challenges such as climate change and debt relief for poor nations.

“I think expectations should be extremely low,” said Matthew Goodman, senior vice president for economics at the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

“It’s hard to see how the G20 is going to pull together in the face of…the Ukraine crisis,” he said in an interview.

The finance officials are gathering virtually on the sidelines of the World Bank and IMF’s spring meetings in Washington.

Despite the friction, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said global cooperation “must and will continue”, pointing to a long list of issues that “no country can solve on its own”. Asked how the group can avoid fracture and still take action, Georgieva, who heads an institution with 189 members, told reporters: “I can vouch for the fact that it is more difficult when there are tensions, but it is not impossible.”


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