Yellen, others walk out of G-20 meeting when Russian minister speaks
U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and other global policymakers walked out of a meeting of the Group of 20 major economies in Washington on Wednesday when Russia’s finance minister began speaking, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Yellen left the session along with Ukrainian Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko and multiple other finance ministers and central bank governors once Anton Siluanov, the Russian finance minister who joined the meeting virtually, began to address the gathering, the person said. Some economic policymakers from other countries who joined virtually turned off their cameras when Siluanov began to speak, the person added.
Among the other officials who walked out were U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde, European Commissioner for Economy Paolo Gentiloni and Canadian Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland. Officials from Italy, France, Spain and Germany stayed put.
Yellen had said last week that the U.S. might skip some G20 meetings if Russia attended. Senior Treasury officials said Monday that she would attend the opening session of the meeting that deals with the macroeconomic consequences of the war, in solidarity with her Ukrainian counterpart, but might skip other sessions. Yellen is set to meet privately on Thursday with Marchenko and Ukraine Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, a Treasury official confirmed.
“It’ll be important for us to be there to stand with our partners and allies in opposition to Russia’s invasion and in support of Ukraine,” a senior Treasury official said. “We can’t let Russia stop the United States and our partners from getting important work done in this session, as well as some of the others.”
International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said at a press briefing Wednesday morning that some countries might leave if Siluanov dialed into the meeting.
Asked about the significance of the G20 in times of war involving its members, Georgieva said: “As an institution that has 190 members I can vouch for the fact that it is more difficult when there are tensions, but it is not impossible, and important decisions are taken.”
President Joe Biden has called for Russia’s removal from the G20, but Indonesia, which chairs the group this year, said it planned to invite Russian officials to meetings this week that coincide with the IMF and World Bank’s spring meetings.
In a one-one-one meeting with Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati on Tuesday, Yellen “firmly condemned Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, and emphasized there will be no business-as-usual for Russia in the global economy,” Treasury said.