Rishi Sunak condemns Russia’s ‘barbaric’ war in Ukraine at G20

Rishi Sunak said “countries should not invade their neighbours” as he condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at the G20 summit in Bali.

Facing Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the plenary hall, the Prime Minister called on Moscow to “get out of Ukraine and end this barbaric war” as he blamed the conflict for worsening global economic challenges.

He criticised Russian President Vladimir Putin for not attending the meeting, saying: “Maybe if he had, we could get on with sorting things out.”

Mr Sunak could be seen glowering at Mr Lavrov in images from inside the G20 summit session.

The two-day gathering of leaders of the world’s major economies was opened by Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who said the world would struggle to move forward “if the war does not end”.

The annual summit comes as G20 nations are deeply divided over Russia’s actions in Ukraine, which have pushed up food and energy prices around the world.

In his remarks, Mr Sunak said the context for this G20 “is stark”.

According to a Downing Street transcript of his speech to the closed session, the Prime Minister said: “Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine has profound implications for us all, because it has undermined the fundamental principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“We all depend on these principles. They are the foundations of the international order. They must be upheld.

“It is very simple – countries should not invade their neighbours, they should not attack civilian infrastructure and civilian populations and they should not threaten nuclear escalation.”

He said the economic issues “we should be focusing on today are made much, much worse” by Moscow’s actions.

“The weaponisation of energy and food is totally unacceptable,” he said, adding that Russia is “harming the most vulnerable people around the world” by destroying grain stores and blocking shipments.

Mr Sunak urged fellow leaders to support the renewal of a deal allowing grain exports from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports to ease the global food crisis.

He continued: “One man has the power to change all of this.

“It is notable that Putin didn’t feel able to join us here. Maybe if he had, we could get on with sorting things out.

“Because the single biggest difference that anyone could make is for Russia to get out of Ukraine and end this barbaric war.”

The Prime Minister said he “rejects this aggression” as he vowed to “back Ukraine for as long as it takes.”

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak sit at a table
Rishi Sunak’s bilateral meetings in Bali began with his Canadian counterpart, Justin Trudeau (Leon Neal/PA)

He praised Volodymyr Zelensky’s “incredible fortitude” after the Ukrainian President addressed the Bali summit via video link at the invitation of the Indonesian hosts.

Mr Sunak told Channel 5 News it was “vital” for him to confront Mr Lavrov at the summit.

“I felt a responsibility to make sure that he heard unequivocally the condemnation, not just of the United Kingdom but from allies across the G20,” the Prime Minister said.

“Russia’s war is illegal, it is barbaric, it is causing enormous around the world. It’s vital that behaviour is called out and that’s what I wanted to do.”

Western officials believe the number of Russian troops in Ukraine is now less than 100,000 – the force at the start of the invasion may have been as high as 190,000 – but the war threatens to “grind” on for months to come.

“We are still expecting it to be largely static and we still expect neither side to particularly win or lose and really that extends all the way through 2023,” a senior official said.

G20 summit
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at the G20 summit (Leon Neal/PA)

Although neither side’s forces are expected to collapse, supplies of munitions are a problem for both sides.

The Western officials said Ukrainian assessments that Russia has just 120 short-range Iskander missiles and around a month’s worth of artillery ammunition were “in the right ballpark”.

At the G20, Mr Sunak is “confident” there is growing opposition to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Downing Street said.

Mr Lavrov “was left in no doubt of the strength of feeling by a number of G20 countries” during the first summit session, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters in Bali.

The UK would want the communique issued at the close of the summit to be “as strong as possible” on condemning the war in Ukraine – although with Russia still in the G20 that may be an unrealistic aim.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesperson was asked about reports that leaders could agree a draft communique rejecting the era of war and condemning the use of nuclear weapons.

The official told reporters in Bali: “It’s part and parcel of these summits that there’s a sort of iterative process around agreeing a communique, and that’s continuing.

“Obviously we want any communique, should it be agreed, to be as strong as possible, recognising that the G20 is a different forum to the G7 and that it’s largely focused on economic issues.

“But I wouldn’t comment as inevitably there’s more speculation about what may or may not be in it.”

Asked if Mr Sunak has become more confident that a statement will be agreed, the official said: “I’m not going to put a prediction on the communique. What’s important is what actions come out of this. Continued support for Ukraine from a wide variety of countries.”

While world leaders gathered in Bali, Ukraine was again subjected to strikes targeting energy facilities, with scores of missiles fired by Russia.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said: “The callous targeting of Ukrainian cities with more sickening missile attacks today shows only Putin’s weakness. Putin is losing on the battlefield and – as we saw today at the G20 – diplomatically too.”

In the margins of the summit Mr Sunak held a meeting with Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, but he did not raise the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The meeting was controversial as the Gulf state’s day-to-day leader is accused of ordering the assassination of Mr Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.

Downing Street spokesman said the two leaders “discussed the importance of continued UK-Saudi co-operation in the face of regional security threats and international economic instability”.

“In light of the global increase in energy prices sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Prime Minister said he hoped the UK and Saudi Arabia could continue to work together to stabilise energy markets.