Brisbane | Russian President Vladimir Putin jetted out of Australia today after a testy G20 summit where he faced concerted Western fire over the Ukraine crisis, saying he left slightly early because he needed to get some sleep.
The Russian strongman, a judo black belt who prides himself on his stamina, left before the final communique from the weekend talks was issued, but attended the annual forum’s wrapup lunch and praised the constructive discussions.
Speaking at a news conference just before flying out of Brisbane, he thanked Tony Abbott for hosting the event, despite the Australian prime minister threatening to confront him over the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine in July.
Putin added in comments reported by the RIA Novosti news agency that the decision to leave Brisbane early had nothing to do with tensions over Ukraine. Instead, he wanted to catch up on some sleep ahead of a full day’s work back home tomorrow. We need nine hours to fly from here to Vladivostok and another nine hours from Vladivostok to Moscow, he said. Then we need to get home and return to work on Monday. There’s a need to sleep at least four to five hours.
In an earlier development The United States, Australia and Japan today urged Russia to stop meddling in Ukraine and demanded justice for the victims of a Malaysia Airlines jet allegedly downed by proRussian rebels. The three countries’ leaders said after talks that they were united in opposing Russia’s purported annexation of Crimea and its actions to destabilise eastern Ukraine, and bringing to justice those responsible for the downing of Flight MH17.
The joint call was issued in a statement after tripartite talks among President Barack Obama and prime ministers Tony Abbott and Shinzo Abe, on the margins of a G20 summit in Australia. The summit has been riven by disputes between Western leaders including Obama and Abbott with Russian President Vladimir Putin, over Ukraine and the downing of Flight MH17 in July.
The West says the plane was shot down by proRussian rebels in eastern Ukraine, using a missile supplied by Russia. Moscow angrily denies the charges. Following testy exchanges in Brisbane, one Russian source said Putin plans to leave the G20 summit today, though this was later denied by the Kremlin.