Theresa May greeted Vladimir Putin with the frostiest of handshakes as they met at the G20 in Japan in a meeting which had been soured before it had even begun by the Russian President’s attack on Western views on gay rights, immigration and multiculturalism.
Mr Putin had boasted prior to the showdown between the pair 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’.
Mrs May appeared to have taken the comments to heart as she met Mr Putin and remained utterly stony-faced as they briefly shook hands.
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.
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.
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.’
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 G20 – the countries with the largest and fastest-growing economies – are meeting in Osaka, Japan and 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 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, turning to grin at the Russian leader.
Their meeting was in stark contrast the head-to-head between Mrs May and Mr Putin which appeared unlikely to result in thaw in relations.
In sharp contrast, Mr Putin faced a far frostier head-to-head with a grim-faced Theresa May as the two shook hands this morning. The Prime Minister is due to demand he takes 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.
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
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
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
Donald Trump shares some warm words with Theresa May, attending her last G20 before she leaves office in July
France’s President Emmanuel Macron (L) greets US President Donald Trump by patting him on the back in Osaka today with the leaders sharing a joke with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (r)
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
Mr Putin has 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 Putin said Anglo-Russian relations were beginning to improve ahead of his face-to-face meeting with Theresa 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’.
Trump’s critics have accused him of being too friendly with Putin and castigated him for failing to publicly confront the Russian leader in Helsinki over Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
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.
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, Trump sought common ground with 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,’ 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 US President Donald Trump.
After lashing out at friend and foe alike en route to Osaka in western Japan for the meeting, 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.
President Trump was the man left waiting for his Russian counterpart who he greeted warmly with his arms open
Mr Trump said it was an ‘honour’ to be meeting with the Russian leader, who he last met in Helsinki, Finland, last year before putting his hand out
They shook hands and then Trump joked that he should not ‘meddle’ in the next US Presidential elections
Putin and Trump have met very rarely but both rumours of collusion have dogged President Trump for years
Trump and Putin walked into the G20 ‘family photo’ session together after many other leaders had gathered
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
France’s President Emmanuel Macron speaks with U.S. President Donald Trump during a meeting at the G20 leaders summit in Osaka, Japan
Leaders of the Group of 20 opened a high-stakes summit in Japan’s Osaka Friday that is 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’.
US President Donald Trump and China’s Xi Jinping, whose countries are mired 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.
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 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.’
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
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 meeting 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 Chinese President Xi Jinping 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, Trump at the opening session said: ‘We must also ensure the resilience and security of our 5G networks.’
Before arriving, 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 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