Vladimir Putin is underlining his presence at a major summit of world leaders in Australia by stationing warships in waters off the country’s northeastern coast, prompting the Australian prime minister to angrily accuse Russia of trying to reclaim the “lost glories” of the Soviet Union.
The diplomatic drama, which has been simmering since a Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down over an area of Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists in July, threatened to overshadow Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s goal of keeping this weekend’s G-20 summit focused on economic growth.
But Abbott, who had previously said he would physically confront the Russian president over the Flight 17 disaster that killed 298 people, including 38 Australian citizens and residents, did little to dampen tensions with his latest critique of Putin’s Russia.
In recent days, four Russian warships have entered international waters off the northeast Australian coast to coincide with Putin’s visit to Australia for the summit that brings together the leaders of the world’s 20 biggest industrialized and developing economies. Australia, in turn, sent three warships of its own to monitor them.
The Russian embassy said on Friday that Russia’s Pacific fleet was testing its range, and could be used as security for Putin.
Abbott was not impressed.