A furious Theresa May confronted Vladimir Putin and told him to stop Russia’s ‘irresponsible and destabilising’ meddling in world affairs during a frosty meeting at the G20 summit in Japan.
Mrs May used the showdown to attempt to order the Russian President to modify his behaviour but her attempts were partially overshadowed by a scathing attack on the West launched by Mr Putin before they met.
The stage was set for a particularly sour face-to-face meeting after the Russian President criticised Western views on gay rights, immigration and multiculturalism.
But it got off to an even worse than expected start as an indignant and stony-faced Mrs May, apparently angry at Mr Putin’s assault on European ‘liberalism’, barely looked at her opposite number as they shook hands.
Their head-to-head encounter came after Mr Putin had met with US President Donald Trump as the pair delivered one of the most extraordinary moments of any recent summit of world leaders.
A smiling Mr Trump had jokingly told Mr Putin ‘don’t meddle in the election, please’ in reference to the US presidential contest next year in comments which prompted astonishment among observers.
The summit in Japan presented Mr Trump with a myriad of potential headaches as he had to navigate meetings and conversations with leaders he has clashed with in recent months.
The latest edition of the meeting of the world’s most powerful nations came against a backdrop of increasingly strained relations which have seen Mr Trump collide with China and the EU over trade and growing tensions with Iran.
Mr Putin seized control of the narrative at the summit after he boasted prior to his talks with Mrs May that liberalism in Europe and the US had ‘outlived its purpose’ and called the decision to allow millions of migrants into the EU a ‘cardinal mistake’.
The meeting was already due to be a tense affair after Mrs May vowed to confront Mr Putin over the Salisbury spy attack and demand that he hand over the suspects.
Downing Street’s description of the meeting suggested Mrs May had delivered an uncompromising assessment of current UK/Russian relations.
A Number 10 spokesman said: ‘She told the president that there cannot be a normalisation of our bilateral relationship until Russia stops the irresponsible and destabilising activity that threatens the UK and its allies – including hostile interventions in other countries, disinformation and cyber attacks – which undermine Russia’s standing in the world.’
Speaking ahead of the showdown talks Mrs May had heaped pressure on Mr Putin as she said what happened in the Wiltshire city was a ‘despicable and irresponsible act’ and those responsible needed to face justice.
Theresa May and Vladimir Putin engaged in an awkward handshake at the start of their meeting in Japan today which came after the Russian president had criticised Western values
Mrs May appeared unwilling to even look at Mr Putin as they shook hands after he launched an attack on ‘liberalism’
Relations between Russia and Britain have been in tatters over the March 4, 2018, nerve agent attack on double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury
Russia has always denied any wrongdoing for the poisoning of Sergei Skripal in Salisbury last year which caused a global diplomatic crisis
She told the BBC: ‘Russia does not allow the extradition of its nationals, but European arrest warrants are out for those two individuals and if they set foot outside Russia we will be making every effort that they are brought to justice.’
Putin mocks UK over Tory leadership contest
Vladimir Putin has mocked the UK for having a political system which allows a party to change prime minister without the general public having a say.
The Russian President said the Tory leadership process of allowing Conservative members to choose who should take over from Theresa May in Downing Street was different to what happens in Russia.
‘We are a democratic country,’ he said and then laughed, according to the Financial Times.
‘In your country, one leader has left, and the second leader, who is for all intents and purposes the top figure in the state, is not elected by a direct vote of the people, but by the ruling party,’ he added.
The fact that the pair had agreed to meet at the summit prompted speculation that there could now be a thaw in relations but the way in which Mrs May greeted Mr Putin and his outspoken comments suggest that is now incredibly unlikely.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Putin said ‘the liberal idea’ was on its way out as the public turned its back on liberalism and he claimed German chancellor Angela Merkel had made a huge error in her 2017 decision to allow a million refugees into the country.
He said: ‘[Liberals] cannot simply dictate anything to anyone just like they have been attempting to do over the recent decades.
‘This liberal idea presupposes that nothing needs to be done. That migrants can kill, plunder and rape with impunity because their rights as migrants have to be protected.’
He added: ‘Every crime must have its punishment. The liberal idea has become obsolete. It has come into conflict with the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population.’
The leaders of the G20 – the countries with the largest and fastest-growing economies – are meeting in Osaka against a backdrop of global instability.
They posed for the famous ‘family photo’ of world leaders which as well as Mr Putin and Mrs May included US President Donald Trump, China’s Xi Jinping, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Salman and their host, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The first major meeting of the summit was between Mr Trump and Russia’s leader where the US President hailed their ‘very, very good relationship’, adding: ‘It’s a great honour to be with President Putin’.
An extraordinary moment then followed their handshake as Mr Trump told Mr Putin ‘don’t meddle in the election, please’ with a smile on his face in reference to his forthcoming battle for re-election in 2020 which comes after a lengthy probe into allegations of Kremlin meddling into the 2016 US election.
Donald Trump has met Vladimir Putin today with the US President saying with a smile ‘don’t meddle’ in the US elections, which was delivered with a smile
President Trump was the man left waiting for his Russian counterpart who he greeted warmly with his arms open
Emmanuel Macron, pictured whispering in the ear of Donald Trump today, is expected to pressure the US President to recommit to global efforts to tackle climate change
Donald Trump shares some warm words with Theresa May, attending her last G20 before she leaves office in July
Donald Trump jokingly tells Vladimir Putin not to meddle in 2020 US presidential election
President Donald Trump told Russian President Vladimir Putin not to meddle in the elections – with a smile.
The president was asked at the top of a G20 meeting Friday in Japan whether he would tell the Russian president not to interfere in the 2020 elections – as the Mueller report concludes Russia did in 2016.
‘Yes, of course I will,’ Trump responded. ‘Don’t meddle in the election, please,’ Trump told Putin, as he beamed at the Moscow leader, amid hubbub in a room packed full of reporters and dignitaries.
Following his meeting with Putin, Trump told reporters: ‘We’ve had great meetings. We’ve had very, very good relationship. And we look forward to spending some very good time together.
‘A lot of very positive things going to come out of the relationship. So Vladimir, thank you very much,’ Trump said.
The two men were seated next to each other with a floral arrangement.
Putin spoke only in broad strokes in brief comments, speaking in Russian through a translator.
‘We haven’t seen each other since Helsinki meeting,’ Putin noted, referencing their summit meeting where Trump took heat domestically for saying he accepted Putin’s denial of election interference – which is contradicted by the U.S. Intelligence Community assessment.
There was an earlier show of camaraderie, as the two men chatted on the way to a ‘family photo’ at the summit.
Trump patted Putin gently on the back on the way to the event, where he stood next to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Their meeting was in stark contrast to the head-to-head between Mrs May and Mr Putin which got off to the coldest of starts.
The Prime Minister demanded Mr Putin take responsibility for the nerve agent poisoning of Sergei Skripal in Salisbury last year and tell him to hand over the Novichok assassins sent by the Russian state to kill their former agent. Russia has always denied any and all wrongdoing.
The decision to meet with Mr Putin and challenge him directly appeared to suggest that Mrs May wanted to use her final appearance on the world stage as PM to leave a lasting impression before she formally resigns on July 24 to make way for her successor.
Mr Putin reserved special praise for Donald Trump for trying to stem the flow of migrants and drugs into the US, just before the men met today.
Earlier Mr Putin said Anglo-Russian relations were beginning to improve ahead of his face-to-face meeting with Mrs May at this weekend’s G20 summit in Osaka, Japan.
Relations have been rocky since the UK pointed the finger at the Kremlin for the attempted assassination of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury in March last year.
Mr Putin said: ‘I think Russia and UK are both interested in fully restoring our relations, at least I hope a few preliminary steps will be made.’
But in a chilling admission about how he believes his country should ‘punish’ people like Skripal, who was secretly sharing secrets with the British, he added: ‘Treason is the gravest crime possible and traitors must be punished. I am not saying that the Salisbury incident is the way to do it. But traitors must be punished.’
And in admission that he is willing to take risks to protect his country, he said: ‘He who doesn’t take risks, never drinks Champagne’.
Mr Trump’s critics have accused him of being too friendly with Mr Putin and castigated him for failing to publicly confront the Russian leader in Helsinki over allegations of Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
The leaders of the G20 – the countries with the largest and fastest-growing economies – are meeting in Osaka, Japan. Front row: Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro, French President Emmanuel Macron, Indonesia President Joko Widodo, Chinese President Xi Jinping, US President Donald Trump, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Salman, Japan Prime Minister Shinxo Abe, Argentine President Mauricio Macri, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte, (Second) Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, Egypt President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison, British Prime Minister Theresa May, India Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, European Union President of the European Council Donald Tusk, Senegal President Macky Sall, Chile President Sebastian Pinera and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and third row’s invited guests
President Donald Trump was at the centre of the photo and shook hands with China’s President Xi Jinping with the countries currently in a trade war
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman shakes hands with US President Donald Trump ahead of the family photo of world leaders
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meets Russian President Vladimir Putin and his entourage on the side of the G20 summit
President Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner, an adviser to the White House, have joined The Donald on the trip to Japan
Who said what? The best quotes from the crunch G20 summit
Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, on not reading briefings: ‘For once, I was using this jetlag to read the communique which normally I’m not doing. I’m not the only one in this room who does not read the communique. Nobody in fact reads the communique.’
Donald Tusk, the European Council president, on tempering expectations: ‘Don’t expect white smoke here in Osaka. Smoking is forbidden everywhere here. I have no idea how you will survive, Jean-Claude!’
Donald Trump, the US President, jokes on Russian election meddling: ‘Don’t meddle in the election, president, don’t meddle.’
Donald Trump, the US President, on relations with Angela Merkel: ‘She is a fantastic person, a fantastic woman.’
Emmanuel Macron, the French President, on US manufacturing: ‘Today things are made neither in China, nor in the United States. They are made globally.’
A U.S. special counsel, Robert Mueller, conducted a two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election and whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow.
Mr Mueller found that Russia did meddle in the election but that the Trump campaign did not illegally conspire with Russia to influence the vote.
In a further attempt to lighten the mood, Mr Trump sought common ground with Mr Putin at the expense of the journalists who had gathered to catch the leaders at the outset of their meeting.
‘Get rid of them. Fake news is a great term, isn’t it. You don’t have this problem in Russia but we do,’ Mr Trump said.
World leaders kicked off one of their most high-stakes G20 meetings in years Friday, with rows brewing over a bruising US-China trade war and climate change despite a more conciliatory tone from the US President.
After lashing out at friend and foe alike en route to Osaka in western Japan for the meeting, Mr Trump appeared in a less combative mood when meeting fellow world leaders face-to-face.
Fresh from describing traditionally close US ally Germany as ‘delinquent’ for not paying enough into the NATO budget, he was effusive when meeting Chancellor Angela Merkel.
‘She’s a fantastic person, a fantastic woman and I’m glad to have her as a friend,’ he said.
Putin and Trump have met very rarely but rumours of collusion with Russia have dogged President Trump for years
‘Traitors must be punished’: Putin brands treason the ‘gravest crime possible’ as he shrugs off Skripal row
Vladimir Putin today said British claims that his agents carried out the Salisbury poisoning are ‘not worth five pounds’ – but justified attacks on Russian traitors saying: ‘Treason is the gravest crime possible and must be punished’.
The Russian President will meet Theresa May at the G20 in Russia today where the Prime Minister will demand he admits to the Novichok attack and hand over the two spies sent to kill Sergei Skripal last year.
Mrs May has said her decision to speak to Putin in Osaka is not a return to ‘business as usual’ with Russia, whose leader today sought to laugh off claims he ordered the poisoning.
Mr Putin told the Financial Times: ‘Listen, all this fuss about spies and counterspies, it is not worth serious interstate relations. This spy story, as we say, it is not worth five kopecks. Or even five pounds, for that matter’.
But in a chilling admission about how he believes his country should ‘punish’ like Skripal, who was secretly sharing secrets with the British, he added: ‘Treason is the gravest crime possible and traitors must be punished. I am not saying that the Salisbury incident is the way to do it. But traitors must be punished.’
And in admission that he is willing to take risks to protect his country, he said: ‘He who doesn’t take risks, never drinks Champagne’.
The G20 summit is the expected to be one of the most fractious in years.
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe opened the meeting, which will be dominated by contentious discussions on trade, geopolitical tensions, and climate change.
But the mood appeared friendly in the opening minutes, with smiles on the faces of the arriving leaders as they posed for the traditional ‘family photograph’.
Mr Trump and Xi Jinping, whose countries are currently locked in a damaging trade war, exchanged a handshake before the photo. The two leaders are due for hotly anticipated talks on Saturday.
And as the leaders headed into the first session, French President Emmanuel Macron leaned down to whisper something into Trump’s ear, covering his mouth for privacy as he did so.
Mr Macron is expected to put pressure on Mr Trump to recommit to global efforts to tackle climate change.
Last night Mr Putin said liberal governments had ignored their people in pursuit of multiculturalism and tolerance of gay people. He said: ‘I am not trying to insult anyone because we have been condemned for our alleged homophobia. But we have no problem with LGBT persons. God forbid, let them live as they wish.
‘But some things do appear excessive to us. They claim now that children can play five or six gender roles. Let everyone be happy, we have no problem with that.
‘But this must not be allowed to overshadow the culture, traditions and traditional family values of millions of people making up the core population.’
This morning, European Union President Donald Tusk blasted Mr Putin for suggesting in the interview that liberalism was ‘obsolete.’
In a statement to reporters, Tusk said, ‘We are here as Europeans also to firmly and unequivocally defend and promote liberal democracy.’
He said, ‘What I find really obsolete are: authoritarianism, personality cults, the rule of oligarchs. Even if sometimes they may seem effective.’
Before a dinner was held behind closed doors on Friday the world leaders and their wives went outside to pose for more photos
Trump (front right) talks to France’s President Emmanuel Macron as other world leaders started to take their places on Friday night
Japan’ Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his spouse Akie Abe take their places while Trump and MBS chat nearby during the photocall
The Russian president (seen arriving in Japan today) criticised Western views on gay rights, immigration and multiculturalism – which he claimed were an attack on ‘traditional family values’
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin arrived at the G20 where he was welcomed by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who then met German leader Angela Merkel, who Putin blasted over her migrant policy
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin take part in a meeting at the G20 leaders summit in Osaka
Quizzed: Mr Putin (right) was interviewed by journalists Lionel Barber (centre) and Henry Foy (left) from the UK’s Financial Times newspaper
Mr Putin fixes FT editor Mr Barber with an icy stare during their interview in Moscow
Netherlands’ Prime Minister Mark Rutte (left) is welcomed by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the red carpet of the summit
Shinzo Abe and France’s Emmanuel Macron point Donald Trump to his seat as they sit down for the beginning of the round table discussions
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with French President Emmanuel Macron embrace as they meet during the summit
Trump greets smiling Saudi Crown Prince the CIA has concluded ‘ordered Khashoggi’s murder’
Trump (L) shakes hands with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman during the Leaders family photograph
President Donald Trump exchanged greetings with a grinning Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at a ‘family photo’ at the G20 summit in Japan Friday.
The two men could be seen sharing conversation as the world leaders gathered on a single stage for the traditional photo-op.
The Saudi Crown Prince has been under increased scrutiny since the murder of Saudi dissident and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
The CIA reportedly has concluded that he ordered the murder.
Mr Putin said the threat of a new nuclear arms race between Russia and the US was a concern, adding: ‘The Cold War was a bad thing… but there were at least some rules that all participants in international communication more or less adhered to or tried to follow.’
Despite the warm words in public, the summit could be one of the most explosive in years, with clashes possible over trade, Iran, and climate change.
The most eagerly anticipated part of the meeting will be on Saturday when Trump and President Xi hold their first face-to-face since the last G20, to thrash out a truce in a long-running trade war that has stymied the world economy.
Experts believe there is little chance of a full deal immediately, saying the best hope is for a truce that would avoid Washington imposing new tariffs and ramping up the conflict.
But even a truce is not guaranteed, with the Wall Street Journal reporting Thursday that Beijing will not agree to any deal unless Washington lifts its ban on Chinese telecoms firm Huawei.
In an apparent reference to this issue, Mr Trump at the opening session said: ‘We must also ensure the resilience and security of our 5G networks.’
Before arriving, Mr Trump said China wanted a ceasefire because its economy was ‘going down the tubes’, appearing to also threaten another $325 billion in levies in addition to the $200 billion Washington has already imposed.
After President Xi held a meeting with counterparts from Egypt, South Africa and Senegal, Dai Bing, an official from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said ‘all leaders stressed that… bullying practices are on the rise.’
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shakes hands with Ivanka Trump, Advisor to the US President at the International Exhibition Center
Shinzo Abe’s wife Akie Abe (front centre) poses with partners of the G20 leaders for a family photo during the summit on Friday
The wives of the leaders of state take their places at the venue as the line up to pose for official photos ahead of proceedings
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s wife Emine Erdogan and French First Lady Brigitte Macron were among the leaders’ wives posing in the photos
Trade and horse-trade: Five key issues at the G20
Global trade, geopolitical hotspots and even horse-trading over top EU jobs: G20 leaders have a lot of their plate when they meet from Friday in Osaka.
Here are some of the most pressing issues facing the leaders at the two-day meeting, with the decisive action likely to take place mainly on the sidelines.
– ‘Tariffs and trade’ –
All eyes will be on whether the US and China, the world’s top two economies, can bury the hatchet in their long-running trade war that is causing headwinds for an already fragile global economy.
The two leaders, Donald Trump and Xi Jinping, will hold talks on the sidelines of the Osaka summit, their first face-to-face meeting since December at the last G20 in Argentina.
Experts are sceptical that a definitive deal will be struck in Japan, but many believe they may agree on a tariff truce and set a new deadline for a final agreement.
Trade will also feature heavily as a point of conflict in the wider G20 meeting with battles likely over the wording of the final statement – if the leaders can agree on one.
A G20 finance ministers meeting earlier this month noted in a communique that trade tensions had ‘intensified’ and that risks were ’tilted to the downside’, but even this statement took 30 hours of hard-fought wrangling.
– Letter from Pyongyang –
Relations between the United States and North Korea have been in the freezer since a summit in Hanoi in February failed to achieve progress on Pyongyang’s nuclear programme.
But a recent exchange of letters between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has raised hopes that a third summit could be on the cards, and the US president is travelling to South Korea immediately after the G20.
Xi arrives in Osaka fresh from his first visit to Pyongyang and observers expect he may pass on a message from Kim to rekindle diplomatic activity.
– Iranian powder keg –
With key regional players such as the United States, Saudi Arabia and Russia in attendance, the mounting tensions with Iran are certain to be a hot topic of conversation.
The G20 host, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, sought to play a mediation role with a historic trip to Tehran, but this was overshadowed by two attacks on tankers in the Gulf of Oman that Washington blames on Iran.
At the last moment, Trump called off a planned military retaliation for the downing of an unmanned US drone, saying that the estimated death toll of 150 was not proportionate.
And on Friday, he said there was ‘no rush’ to calm tensions with Iran.
‘Hopefully in the end it’s going to work out,’ he added.
EU President Donald Tusk warned that the tensions were a ‘serious concern’ and urged Iran to comply with a nuclear deal despite Washington’s decision to withdraw from it.
– Climate change wrangling –
Hosts Japan are hoping to achieve consensus on the increasingly contentious issue of climate change action.
But they will struggle to unite European leaders like French President Emmanuel Macron, who has said he wants to see ambitious language on climate change action, and Trump, who plans to withdraw Washington from the Paris climate agreement.
Macron has said including a reference to the Paris deal on lowering emissions is a ‘red line’, and a German government source admitted negotiations are ‘particularly difficult this year’.
Last year’s G20 communique saw all members but the US refer to the Paris deal as ‘irreversible’, with Washington inserting a line reiterating its commitment to withdrawing from the agreement.
– ‘Brussels horse-trading’ –
After failing to agree a deal for the successor to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at a summit on Friday, EU leaders have kicked the can down the road to a special meeting in Brussels on June 30.
But Tusk confirmed Friday that conversations would continue with top EU leaders at the G20, adding that he had held ’12 or 13 phone calls’ with other EU players.
‘What I feel is that we are closer to the solution but still too far to say something more concrete today.’