Western finance ministers condemned Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine at G-20 talks in Indonesia on Friday, accusing Russian officials of complicity in atrocities committed during the war.
The two-day meeting on the island of Bali began under the shadow of a Russian military assault 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.
“Russia is solely responsible for negative spillovers to the global economy,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told the Russian delegation in the opening session, according to a Treasury official.
“Russia’s officials should recognize that they are adding to the horrific consequences of this war through their continued support of the Putin regime. You share responsibility for the innocent lives lost.”
She was joined by Canadian Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, who told Russia’s delegation they were responsible for “war crimes” in Ukraine because of their support for the invasion, a Canadian official said.
“It is not only generals who commit war crimes, it is the economic technocrats who allow the war to happen and to continue,” said Freeland, according to the official.
Both Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov and Ukrainian Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko are participating virtually in the meeting.
Moscow instead sent Russian Deputy Finance Minister Timur Maksimov to attend the talks in person. He was present for both Yellen and Freeland’s condemnation, according to a source present at the talks.
Host and G-20 chair Indonesia warned ministers that failure to tackle energy and food crises would be catastrophic.
In her opening remarks, Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati called on ministers to work together with a spirit of “cooperation” 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.”
The meeting has largely focused on the food and energy crises that are weighing on an already brittle global recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“(Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s actions including the destruction of agricultural facilities, theft of grain and farm equipment, and effective blockade of Black Sea ports amounts to using food as a weapon of war,” Yellen said in an afternoon seminar.
Indrawati said members had “identified the urgent need for the G-20 to take concrete steps” to address food insecurity and to help countries in need.
Yellen is also pressing G-20 allies for a price cap on Russian oil to choke off Putin’s war chest and pressure Moscow to end its invasion while bringing down energy costs.
Yellen in April led a multinational walkout of finance officials as Russian delegates spoke at a G-20 meeting in Washington, but there was no such action Friday.
There is unlikely to be a final communique issued when talks end on Saturday because of disagreements with Russia.
G-20 chair Indonesia — which pursues a neutral foreign policy — has refrained from uninviting Russia despite Western pressure.
“We need to act together to demonstrate why G-20 deserves its reputation as the premier forum for international cooperation,” Indrawati said.
Alongside Moscow and Kyiv’s ministers, Chinese Finance Minister Liu Kun and Britain’s new Finance Minister Nadhim Zahawi were only attending virtually.
International Monetary Fund chief Kristalina Georgieva will appear in person after saying Wednesday the global economic outlook had “darkened significantly” because of Moscow’s invasion.
European Central Bank president Christine Lagarde is participating virtually, but World Bank Chief Executive David Malpass will not attend.
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 being tackled by the ministers included 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 tax rules overhaul.