Boris Johnson says he won’t boycott G20 even if ‘pariah’ Putin goes

Giving up seat at summit would ‘risk propaganda opportunity’ for Russia, says PM

Adam Forrest
Wednesday 29 June 2022 13:08 BST
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Putin has 'small man syndrome', says Ben Wallace

Boris Johnson has ruled out a British boycott of the upcoming G20 summit, indicating that he would go even if Russian president Vladimir Putin chooses to turn up.

The prospect of an extraordinary showdown between western leaders and the Russian president was raised after the Kremlin said Putin would go to November’s conference in Indonesia.

Mr Johnson told reporters that it was “highly unlikely” that Putin would attend – but insisted that he would not “vacate” his own seat at the summit because he wanted to persuade world leaders to offer more support to Ukraine.

“I would be absolutely amazed if Putin goes in person. He’s a pariah figure. He hasn’t been outside Russia for more than two years. I think he’s highly unlikely to go for all sorts of reasons,” the prime minister said.

“There is a very difficult question about the G20. Yes, he’s been formally invited, I don’t think he will go,” he added. “The question is do we do we as the Western countries vacate our seats at the G20 and leave the whole argument to China, to Russia?”

Though Mr Putin has a formal invitation to the summit, since Russia remains a member of the G20, it is not clear whether he will attend or join discussions by video link.

Several countries in the group of major global economies – including China, South Africa and Brazil – have made clear they will support Russia’s membership. Despite the Ukraine invasion.

Mr Johnson said he wanted to be there to win over G20 nations still wavering over support for Ukraine following Russia’s brutal invasion.

“What can we do with the middle of the congregation – the people who look at Ukraine and have mixed feelings? We need to be doing more to win them over, we need to be making our case and you know who those countries are,” he said.

The PM added: “I think if you if you vacate something like the G20 you risk just handing the propaganda opportunity to others.”

A senior aide to the Russian president said on Monday that Putin still planned on joining leaders at the summit. His participation is “envisaged”, said Kremlin official Yury Ushakov.

“They are still inviting in person. There is still a lot of time. I hope that the pandemic will allow this event to be held in person,” he added.

German chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Monday he was yet to decide whether to attend the summit if Putin goes to Indonesia. “In the end, we will have to make the decision shortly before the departure,” said Mr Scholz said.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen suggested she shared Mr Johnson’s view that the G20 was “too important” to boycott. “We have to consider very carefully whether we paralyze the entire G20,” she said earlier thie week.

It comes as Mr Johnson told a German broadcaster that Putin would not have launched his “crazy, macho” attack on Ukraine if he were a woman – describing him as the “perfect example of toxic masculinity”.

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