Putin’s ‘economic asphyxiation’ will blight world for years to come, says Sunak

Prime minister accuses Russian president of ‘contempt’ for international community

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor, in Bali
Wednesday 16 November 2022 10:46 GMT
Rishi Sunak blames ‘Russia's invasion of Ukraine’ for global economic instability

The impact of Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine will continue to blight the world “for years to come”, Rishi Sunak has said.

Speaking at a G20 summit dominated by Ukraine, the prime minister accused the Russian president of inflicting “global economic asphyxiation” on countries around the world.

And he condemned Putin’s decision to launch a wave of around 80 missile strikes on civilian targets in Ukraine at a time when world leaders were meeting in Indonesia, describing it as an act of “contempt” for the international community.

In a press conference as the Bali summit drew to an end, Mr Sunak said that the Ukraine war will continue to pose a threat to the UK and its allies and “devastate” the world economy for as long as it goes on.

Two-thirds of global economies are experiencing high inflation and one-third are judged by the IMF to be in recession largely as a result of Russia’s invasion, he said.

“The persistent threat to our security and global economic asphyxiation has been driven by the actions of the one man unwilling to be at this summit - Vladimir Putin,” he said.

“There is not a single person in the world who hasn’t felt the impact of Putin’s war.

“Global food markets have been severely disrupted by his attempts to choke off Ukrainian grain supply. There has been an eightfold increase in global energy prices, thanks to Russia turning off their gas taps.

“And the economic aftershocks of Putin’s casual disregard for human life will ripple around the world for years to come.”

Mr Sunak refused to say who he blamed for the Russian-built missile which landed in the territory of Nato member Poland last night, killing two people.

“There are teams on the ground involving not only the Poles, but also the Ukrainians, the Americans and others,” he said. “I think all of us what to get to the bottom of what happened and it’s right that we let that process conclude.”

But he made clear that he believes the finger of blame should be pointed at Moscow, even if it transpires that the missile was not fired by Russia.

“We should all be clear,” said the PM. “None of this would be happening if it weren’t for Russia’s invation of Ukraine. This is the cruel and unrelenting reality of Putin’s war as long as it goes on.”

Mr Sunak was woken at 5am local time to be told the news from Poland and spoke with foreign secretary James Cleverly and defence secretary Ben Wallace on a joint call before phoning Poland’s president Andrzej Duda at around 7.30.

After taking part in an impromptu meeting of Nato and G7 leaders in Bali, Mr Sunak and Canadian PM Justin Trudeau later spoke by video call with Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba and president Volodymyr Zelensky.

The emergency summit of Nato and G7 leaders hurriedly convened by US president Joe Biden threw schedules for the final day of the G20 summit into disarray, forcing the cancellation of a controversial planned meeting between Mr Sunak and Chinese president Xi Jinping.

The meeting, which would have been the first face-to-face encounter between a British PM and Xi since 2018, sparked alarm among Conservative China hawks who feared it signalled Mr Sunak softening the UK’s stance towards Beijing.

Mr Putin dodged the G20 summit, which would have brought him face-to-face with some of his fiercest critics for the first time since the February invasion.

His stand-in, foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, was forced to sit through a video address from Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky and a series of statements condemning Moscow’s actions from leaders including Mr Sunak on the first day of the summit.

He quit Bali at the end of Tuesday to return to Moscow shortly before missiles began to rain down on Ukraine.

Fears that his presence would prevent the agreement of a joint communique setting out decisions made in Bali proved unfounded.

In a form of words which highlighted Russia’s isolation at the world’s top table, the document noted that “most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine”, while noting that “there were other views and different assessments of the situation”.

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