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Janet Yellen and other finance ministers walk out of G20 meeting as Russia speaks

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen pauses while speaking at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C., on April 13. Yellen and other finance ministers walked out of a G20 session on Wednesday as Russian officials were speaking.
Brendan Smialowski
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AFP via Getty Images
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen pauses while speaking at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C., on April 13. Yellen and other finance ministers walked out of a G20 session on Wednesday as Russian officials were speaking.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and other global financial leaders walked out of a G20 session as Russian officials were speaking on Wednesday in an effort to underscore Moscow's isolation following the invasion of Ukraine.

Yellen's counterparts from the UK and Canada joined the walkout, as did officials from Ukraine, while the session was taking place in Washington, D.C.

"The world's democracies will not stand idly by in the face of continued Russian aggression and war crimes," Canadian finance minister Chrystia Freeland said in a tweet about the walkout. "Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine is a grave threat to the global economy. Russia should not be participating or included in these meetings."

The Treasury Department declined to comment on Yellen's walkout but noted that she emphasized "there will be no business-as-usual for Russia in the global economy" when she met Tuesday with Indonesian finance minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati.

Indonesia is chairing the G20 this year.

Russia is increasingly isolated

The U.S. and its allies have imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine, including preventing Moscow from accessing its foreign exchange reserves.

The U.S. has also banned imports of Russian oil, while the U.K. has targeted some of the Russian wealthy elite who live there.

"We are united in our condemnation of Russia's war against Ukraine and will push for stronger international coordination to punish Russia," said Rishi Sunak, the U.K.'s chancellor of the Exchequer, in a tweet about the walkout.

The gathering of G20 finance ministers was held in conjunction with the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in Washington, D.C.

The IMF downgraded its forecast of global economic growth this week, saying Russia's invasion of Ukraine is largely to blame. The war has rattled global markets for energy and food.

"Beyond its immediate and tragic humanitarian impact, the war will slow economic growth and increase inflation," IMF research director Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas said Tuesday.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.