Kremlin: Putin, Cameron discuss repairing Russia-West ties
Russian President Vladimir Putin and British Prime Minister David Cameron on Saturday discussed how to repair Russia-West ties that have hit post-Cold War lows over the Ukraine crisis, the Kremlin said after the leaders’ closed-door meeting in Brisbane.
Putin is facing huge pressure from top Western leaders over Russia’s support for a separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine, with Cameron accusing Russia of “bullying a smaller state in Europe.”
In an apparent sign of palpable tensions between the two leaders, Putin and Cameron chose to conduct their meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit behind closed doors.
They greeted each other and shook hands but eschewed any pleasantries in front of the cameras, waiting for reporters to leave the room before they started speaking, Russian news agencies said.
A Downing Street source said afterwards that Cameron had warned that the Russian strongman had a choice to make.
“The prime minister was clear at the start of the Ukraine discussions that we face a fork in the road, in terms of where we go next,” the source said, quoted by British media.
“We can either see implementation of the Minsk agreement and what follows from that in terms of an improvement of relations,” the source said, referring to peace accords.
“Or we can see things go in a very different way in terms of relations between Russian and the UK, Europe and the U.S..”
The West accused Russia this week of sending fresh military hardware into eastern Ukraine fueling fears of a return to all-out conflict.
The Kremlin for its part said that at the Brisbane meeting that Putin and Cameron expressed mutual interest in seeing Russia and West mend fences.
“Vladimir Putin and David Cameron noted interest in restoring ties between Russia and the West and adopting efficient measures to settle the Ukraine crisis which will facilitate the renunciation of confrontational sentiments,” the Kremlin said in a statement.
Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov, speaking to Russian reporters in Brisbane, added:
“They also spoke about the fundamental reasons for the current discord in ties between Russia, the United States and a number of European countries.”
Peskov added that despite their focus on the Ukraine crisis, Putin and Cameron also discussed other issues.
“Despite the time pressure, Putin and Cameron touched upon the Syrian issue and ISIS,” Peskov said, referring to jihadist militants controlling parts of Iraq and Syria.
Going into the summit, US President Barack Obama said Russia’s aggression against Ukraine was “a threat to the world” and called the shoot-down of MH17 over the rebel-held east of the ex-Soviet country in July “appalling”.
The G20 host, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, for his part accused Putin of trying to relive the “lost glories of tsarism”.