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Freeland says Russia should be booted from G20, but no movement yet

Canada’s finance minister says Canada won’t be a part of any meeting where Russia is taking part
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland speaks during a media availability on the situation in Ukraine, in Ottawa, on Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Russia should be booted from an international forum to manage global economic concerns over its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the destabilizing effects it has had, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says.

Removing Russia from the G20 was a key topic of discussion during meetings this week of finance ministers and central bankers from the group of nations in Washington, D.C.

Freeland said Russia doesn’t have a place at the table among countries trying to maintain prosperity when its illegal war in Ukraine has strained the global economy.

But in her comments during a closing news conference in the U.S. capital, alongside her Ukrainian counterpart and International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan, Freeland hinted that the feeling isn’t unanimous.

China, for instance, has argued against removing Russia from the group.

“You can’t be a poacher and gamekeeper at the same time,” Freeland said about why Russia should be expelled.

“You don’t invade and try to take over another country. Having violated that principle, and continuing to violate it with an ongoing war, it’s impossible to talk about international collaboration, international co-operative efforts with Russia.”

Freeland, along with other allies, walked out of the G20 meeting when the Russian delegation looked to speak. She said Canada won’t be a part of any meeting where Russia is taking part.

The comments echoed a statement from the G7 finance ministers released Thursday, that said countries should no longer conduct their activities with Russia in a business-as-usual manner.

The conflict has further strained global supply chains and driven up prices for food and gasoline creating inflationary pressures on consumers around the world, and stirring unease in developing nations reliant on wheat from the region for food programs.

The parliamentary budget officer noted in a report Friday that the war in Ukraine has “greatly increased the uncertainty surrounding the economic outlook.”

That report also flagged issues with some of the extra military spending promised in the budget, noting almost $15 billion in unexplained additional spending over and above the Defence Department’s recently published plans.

Ukraine has pressed Western allies for more heavy military equipment to aid its defence. Freeland didn’t provide more details of how the $500 million pledged in her April 7 budget would be spent.

Freeland also said she spoke Thursday with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal about reopening the Canadian Embassy in Kyiv. On Friday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the U.K. would reopen its embassy in Kyiv.

“We’re talking about it,” Freeland said, “and we hear our Ukrainian friends.”

Ukrainian Finance Minister Sergii Marchenko said he asked G20 countries for extra financial aid to stabilize Ukraine’s budget, making a nod to loans Canada has already provided.

He said current revenues can only cover about half of the country’s existing needs, excluding the military campaign, which is estimated to be a gap of several billion dollars a month.

“Now we are waiting for right decision, smart decision from their side,” Marchenko said of countries around the G20 table.

—Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

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