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Western Leaders Confront Putin at G20 With Threat of More Sanctions

While the world's leaders meet in Australia, Russia has denied escalating renewed fighting between Ukraine and pro-Moscow rebels.
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BRISBANE, Australia — Western leaders warned Vladimir Putin at a G20 summit on Saturday that he risked more economic sanctions if he failed to end Russian backing for separatist rebels in Ukraine. Russia denied any involvement in an escalation of the separatist war in eastern Ukraine, where more than 4,000 people have been killed since April, but faced strong rebukes from leaders including President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

“I guess I’ll shake your hand but I have only one thing to say to you: you need to get out of Ukraine,” Harper told Putin at the summit in Brisbane, Australia, according to his spokesman Jason MacDonald. Putin’s response to the comment was not positive, MacDonald said in an email, without elaborating. A source in Putin’s delegation told Reuters that the Russian president would leave the summit early, skipping a working breakfast on Sunday, because he needed to return to meetings in Moscow. But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied any such plans, saying: “This is wrong. The president is taking part in all the (G20) events.”

Western nations have imposed successive rounds of sanctions on Moscow. The measures, aimed at sectors like oil and banking, as well as individuals close to Putin, are squeezing Russia’s economy at a time when falling oil prices are straining the budget and the rouble has plunged on financial markets. Putin’s isolation was evident with his placing on the outer edge for the formal G20 leaders' photograph. While Obama and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping were met by Australia’s governor general and attorney general when they arrived in Brisbane, Putin was greeted by the assistant defense minister.



— The Associated Press