Finance ministers from multiple nations walked out of a closed-door G20 session in Washington on Wednesday when the Russian delegate began his prepared remarks, a show of protest against Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine.
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen participated in the walkout, as did European and other Western officials who were participating in the meeting.
Canada’s finance minister Chrystia Freeland wrote on Twitter, “The world’s democracies will not stand idly by in the face of continued Russian aggression and war crimes.” She tweeted a photo of officials who left meeting, including Yellen, US Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde.
Ahead of the meeting, US officials had said Yellen would not participate in certain sessions of the gathering that included Russia.
Ukrainian officials also spoke at the session as invited guests, and also walked out during Russia’s presentation. Yellen and other officials attended the session during those remarks, but departed when Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov began speaking virtually.
A separate official said finance ministers had discussed plans to boycott Russia’s participation ahead of time.
Yellen said earlier this month she had informed this year’s G20 host, Indonesia, that she wouldn’t participate in sessions that included Russia. The G20 finance ministers are gathered in Washington this week to coincide with the annual meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
Ahead of Wednesday’s walkout, Treasury officials made clear it would not be business as usual when it came to Yellen’s interactions with Russian officials during this week’s big gathering of global economic leaders.
While Yellen will attend some sessions of the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governor meeting with Russian officials present, including the opening session, she will not be participating in all of them if the Russians are there, according to a senior US Treasury Official.
“President Biden’s made clear and I certainly agree with him that it cannot be business as usual for Russia in any of the financial institutions,” Yellen told the House Financial Services Committee. “He’s asked that Russia be removed from the G20 and I’ve made clear to my colleagues in Indonesia that we will not be participating in a number of meetings if the Russians are there.”
While President Biden has said Russia should no longer be in the G20, ejecting Moscow would require the support of all members. That is considered unlikely, as China has said it would not back kicking Russia out.