Prime Minister Stephen Harper finally got to speak his mind directly to Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit in Australia, telling the Russian president to “Get out of Ukraine.”
An outspoken critic of Russian aggression in the troubled eastern European country, Harper stood his ground when Putin extended his hand at a pre-summit leaders’ retreat in Brisbane on Saturday.
"I guess I'll shake your hand, but I have only one thing to say to you: You need to get out of Ukraine," Harper said, according to the Canadian prime minister’s spokesman Jason MacDonald.
In an unusual move, the Russian Federation spoke to foreign journalists to confirm the exchange, according to CTV’s Richard Madan.
According to a spokesperson for the Russian delegation, Putin told Harper, "That's impossible because we are not there.”
Some Australian media outlets lionized Harper for his remarks, with The Sunday Mail featuring a picture of a beaver – one of Canada’s national symbols -- biting into a Russian flag under the headline “Handshake came with a slapdown for Russian leader.”
And after Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott had told reporters he would “shirtfront” Putin during their meeting – meaning he would knock him down, metaphorically, for the downing of flight MH17 – Business Insider wrote that Harper was the one who showed Abbott “how to shirtfront the Russian president.”
Harper wasn’t the only world leader to give the Russian leader a cold shoulder in the Aussie heat. Though the conference is supposed to focus on global economics, leaders from the European Council, Australia and U.S. President Barack Obama all spoke out against Putin.
Abbott denounced Russia for sending four navy ships to his country’s northern coast in the days leading up to the summit.
"Russia would be so much more attractive if it was aspiring to be a superpower for peace and freedom and prosperity, if it was trying to be a superpower for ideas and for values, instead of trying to recreate the lost glories of tsarism or the old Soviet Union," Abbott said.
U.S. President Barack Obama also spoke about isolating Russia with sanctions in a talk he gave at a local university, while as British Prime Minister David Cameron threatened Russia with further sanctions.
Before the conference, Harper denounced the “continued penetration of Russian presence in eastern Ukraine and obvious actions to extend and provoke additional violence” after it was reported that Russian troops and tanks were entering Ukraine.
CTV’s Richard Madan reported that during the first day of the two-day summit, Putin was treated as somewhat of a social outcast. At the start of a luncheon, only Brazil’s president sat at the Russian leader’s table.
Madan also reported that Russian officials have confirmed Putin’s plan to leave Brisbane early, but they insist it has nothing to do with pressure put on him by the G20 leaders.
With files from the Canadian Press and CTV News’ Richard Madan