Russian delegate storms out of G20 meeting after ‘corrupt Putin’ comment

Western nations critical of Russia’s war in Ukraine mentioned the invasion, but Mr Tugendhat’s address included the fiercest condemnation, according to two sources in the room.

According to the verbatim note, Mr Tugendhat said at one point: “I would also like to make it clear that the United Kingdom stands with its international partners in condemning – in the strongest possible terms – Russia’s vile and illegal invasion of Ukraine.

“This is an unprovoked and premeditated assault on a sovereign democratic state and constitutes an egregious violation of international law and a violation of territorial integrity.”

At another point, he talked about: “Russia, where kleptocratic elites have used corruption to capture the state, steal at a vast scale from the Russian people and ensure impunity for their actions.

“And as recent Russian actions have shown, at its most serious, this culture of impunity threatens world peace.”

Mr Tugendhat also called out Putin by name, saying: “We have also introduced our own ‘Magnitsky-style’ international corruption sanctions named after the accountant murdered by the orders of the Kremlin, which allows us to restrict access to the UK for some of the most serious overseas corrupt actors, including those linked to Putin’s corrupt government.”

The criticism triggered an unscheduled outburst from Russia’s representative in the room: Vladimir Tarabrin, the director of Russia’s department of new challenges and threats.

“He took deliberate aim at London and the City. He basically said that everybody knows that London is a hive of corruption, it is world-renowned for it’,” said a source present who was not with the UK delegation. A second source in the room confirmed the overall thrust of the remarks.

Mr Tarabrin’s intervention is said to have lasted around 40 seconds. He then turned and walked out of the meeting, in what three sources interpreted as a symbolic gesture.

In response, Western allies gave speeches backing up Britain’s position, including Richard Nephew, the meeting’s US representative who is a senior state department figure with an anti-corruption brief.

At one point Mr Tarabrin returned to the room, only to leave again when he heard continued criticism of his position from Western allies, according to two sources.

A different, more junior Russian official stayed in the room throughout, monitoring what was said.

‘Russia can and should end its war’

Mr Tugendhat stood by his comments in response.

The verbatim note records him saying: “We are here today to discuss corruption and I have simply highlighted pertinent examples of the cost of corruption to the Russian people and the pain and cruelty Ukraine is suffering because of a corrupt regime in the Kremlin. But, let me be clear, Russia can and should end its war in Ukraine immediately.”

The episode underscores the friction inside the G20 – a group of nations that still includes Russia, unlike the smaller G7 – and the challenge of the body striking new agreements.

Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, flies out to India next month for the world leader segment of the G20 summit. Putin is not expected to attend, with Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, likely to go in his place.

All 20 nations, including Russia, ultimately signed up to the conclusions of the anti-corruption summit, which did not focus on Ukraine.

Russian Embassy response

A spokesman for the Russian Embassy in London responded to an approach about the reporting by The Telegraph by defending Mr Tarabrin and criticising Mr Tugendhat.

The spokesman said Mr Tugendhat’s remarks were “unprofessional both in terms of language and substance”.

The spokesman added: “They clearly diverged from the topic of promoting international cooperation in combating corruption and were met with bewilderment by numerous delegations present at the meeting.”

The lengthy statement from the Russian Embassy echoed the claims Mr Tarabrin had made at the meeting, saying London “is well-known throughout the world to be a safe haven for corrupt individuals and entities as well as their assets”.

Part of the statement read: “Director Vladimir Tarabrin duly exercised his right of reply, granted by the Chair of the meeting, to correct Mr Tugendhat.”

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