WATCH ABOVE: Stephen Harper didn’t pull any punches when meeting with Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit in Australia. The Prime Minister reluctantly shook hands but he had a tough message for the Russian President: get out of Ukraine. Mike Le Couteur reports.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper had a blunt message for Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday, as they crossed paths at a private retreat for G20 leaders in Australia.
The message: “Get out of Ukraine.”
Both Harper and Putin arrived in Brisbane Friday night, ahead of the G20 Summit.
According to Harper’s director of communications Jason MacDonald, Harper was chatting with a couple of other world leaders at the retreat when Putin entered the room.
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MacDonald said Putin reached out to shake the prime minister’s hand, as he approached Harper and the others.
Harper acknowledged his Russian counterpart, saying: “I guess I’ll shake your hand, but I only have one thing to say to you: you need to get out of Ukraine.”
“Putin did not respond positively,” MacDonald told Canadian reporters.
Global News reporter Mike Le Couteur, in Brisbane for the summit, confirmed with the Russian Federation’s delegation that the exchange indeed happened.
But, representatives told Le Couteur they were surprised by the Canadian account of the incident.
According to the representatives, Putin told Harper: “That’s impossible because we are not there.”
Russia has been the subject of a series of international sanctions since annexing Crimea from Ukraine in March, and for providing military support for separatists in eastern parts of Ukraine.
Just this week, NATO said Russia sent tanks and weaponry across the Ukrainian border — a move that has renewed tensions and raised fears the conflict between separatists and Ukrainian forces will be reignited. Russia has denied the claims.
Putin also angered Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Thursday after a flotilla of Russian war ships was tracked in international waters off Australia’s northeastern coast.
Abbott accused Putin of trying to reclaim “lost glories” of the Soviet Union.
Putin also had less-than-cordial encounters with U.S. President Barack Obama this week at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Beijing.
The crisis in Ukraine is expected to be one of the topics looming over the gathering of leaders from 20 of the world’s biggest economies.
While economic cooperation is the focus of the two-day summit, the threat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and this week’s deal between China and the U.S. to cut carbon emissions, are also expected to be major topics of discussion.
Aside from Canada, Russia, the U.S. and host country Australia, other nations represented include: Germany, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Turkey, China, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, India, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and the European Union.
With files from Mike Le Couteur and The Associated Press