Vladimir Putin is underlining his presence at a major summit of world leaders in Australia by stationing warships in waters off the country’s northeastern coast, prompting the Australian prime minister to angrily accuse Russia of trying to reclaim the “lost glories” of the Soviet Union.
The diplomatic drama, which has been simmering since a Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down over an area of Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists in July, threatened to overshadow Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s goal of keeping this weekend’s G20 summit focused on economic growth.
In recent days, four Russian warships have entered international waters off the northeast Australian coast to coincide with Putin’s visit to Australia for the summit that brings together the leaders of the world’s 20 biggest industrialized and developing economies. Australia, in turn, sent three warships of its own to monitor them. Putin, meanwhile, slammed G20 member countries for imposing sanctions on Russia, saying this violated the group’s principles, but said he did not plan to raise the issue at the summit in Australia. Putin also said he would hold bilateral meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the summit.