Vladimir Putin plans tilt to Middle East and Asia to defy isolation

Kremlin leader says Russian economy is coping with international sanctions over Ukraine invasion

Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed an economic forum in Vladivostok. EPA
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Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Russia would turn to the Middle East and Asia for new economic opportunities, as he vowed to defeat the West's efforts to freeze out his country because of the war in Ukraine.

Mr Putin blamed sanctions for the squeeze in energy markets and said Russia would stop all remaining gas supplies to Europe if western countries impose a price cap.

Defying his threat, the European Union announced on Wednesday that it would seek to cap prices as well as imposing a windfall tax on electricity companies and curbing power use at peak times.

Clawing back excess profits would fund cost of living relief for EU consumers, while the price cap is meant to starve the Kremlin of revenue as it attacks Ukraine, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said.

"Our sanctions are deeply grinding into the Russian economy, with a heavy negative impact - but Putin is partially buffering through fossil fuel revenues," Ms von der Leyen said.

But Mr Putin told the Eastern Economic Forum in Russia's Pacific port city of Vladivostok: “No matter how much someone would like to isolate Russia, it is impossible to do this."

He said a north-south trade corridor being developed across Europe and Asia would “open up new opportunities for Russian companies to enter the markets of Iran, India, the countries of the Middle East, Africa and, of course, for counter-deliveries from these countries”.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen called for a price cap on Russian gas. AP

In other remarks, Mr Putin:

· Claimed that most of the grain being exported from Ukraine after a deal with Turkey was being received by EU nations rather than developing countries;

· Condemned a plan by G7 countries to engineer a price cap on Russian gas as “another stupidity” that had “no prospects”;

· Swiped at Britain’s new Prime Minister Liz Truss, saying her selection by Conservative Party members was “far from democratic”

· Said the mothballed Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline could be opened at the press of a button if Germany changed its mind after suspending the project in February.

A new poll by the Open Society Foundations, an American donor network, found the cost of living crisis was reverberating worldwide, with rich and poor wondering how they will feed their families at a time of rising prices.

In sub-Saharan Africa, 77 per cent of those polled said they worried that their families would go hungry, but even in the US, 39 per cent said they had some concerns.

Britain's new prime minister promised in her first appearance before MPs to "stand up to that appalling Russian aggression, which has led to the energy crisis we face now".

But Mr Putin showed no sign of backing down from his invasion, saying on Wednesday that Russia’s supposed aim of protecting separatist regions in Ukraine “is our duty … we will fulfil it until the end”.

“Russia is coping with the economic, financial and technological aggression of the West,” he said in a speech entitled On the Path to a Multipolar World in which he made the case for a tilt to Asia.

He told his audience that the wave of sanctions was backfiring on western economies now deprived of Russian energy and raw materials, sacrificing their economic strength at a time when Asian economies are on the rise.

“The vast majority of the Asia-Pacific states do not accept the destructive logic of sanctions … this is the huge competitive advantage of the region,” he said.

“We have not lost anything and will not lose anything. In terms of what we have gained, I can say that the main gain has been the strengthening of our sovereignty, and this is the inevitable result of what is happening now.”

Ukraine conflict - in pictures

Moscow is suspected of fabricating excuses to shut off gas supplies through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which Mr Putin said was “practically closed” in an impasse he blamed on Germany.

But German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Wednesday that the country was well placed to ride out the Russian gas cuts, telling MPs: “We are now in a position in which we can go bravely and courageously into this winter.”

Mr Scholz separately said in a call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that Germany would not not let up in supporting Ukraine militarily, financially and politically, according to the chancellor's office.

Ukraine urged allies to strengthen their sanctions against Moscow and speed up weapons deliveries so that its military can “liberate territories from Russian terror and crimes”.

It said tougher sanctions should not wait for referendums organised by Russian-installed officials in occupied territories in Ukraine, which could lead to Russia annexing more of the country after claiming Crimea in 2014.

Updated: September 07, 2022, 3:03 PM
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