SCO Summit: Putin Says Sanctions Making Russia Stronger

Russia will continue to oppose Western sanctions, President Vladimir Putin has said, following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

His address to a virtual Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit was his first to an international meeting since last month’s mutiny in Russia.

Mr Putin backed trade accords between SCO nations in local currencies – seen as an attempt to blunt sanctions.

The 2023 SCO summit is taking place virtually under India’s leadership.

Mr Putin used the platform to send a message of defiance to the West, saying “Russia counters all these external sanctions, pressures and continues to develop as never before”.

He has made several public appearances since the Wagner mercenary group staged a short-lived mutiny in late June, but this was the first time he’d been seen with a group of international leaders.

He added that more than 80% of trade between Chinese and Russian people was in roubles and yuan, and urged other SCO members to follow the same process.

India PM Narendra Modi called on SCO members to boost trade, connectivity and tech co-operation, among other things.

He didn’t directly refer to either the war in Ukraine or China’s increasingly assertive stance in the Indo-Pacific. India – historically non-aligned – had to walk a tight diplomatic rope, due to its increasingly strong ties with the West.

The US rolled out the red carpet for Mr Modi just days before when he was received in Washington on a state visit.

India’s PM urged the SCO members to co-operate on cross-border terrorism.

“Some countries use cross-border terrorism as an instrument in their policies, (they) give shelter to terrorists… SCO should not hesitate to criticise such countries,” Mr Modi said.

Such statements are always seen as directed at neighbouring Pakistan. While Mr Modi talked about regional security, he did not mention China, the other neighbour with whom India has long had hostile relations.

Indian and Chinese troops fought deadly clashes on their long disputed border in 2020. Tensions persist.

The West has increasingly sees India as a counterweight to China, although Delhi has publicly never owned the tag. And it once again refrained from doing so at the SCO.

Chinese President Xi Jinping mentioned the importance of safeguarding regional peace and security. He urged SCO members to “follow the right direction and enhance their solidarity and mutual trust”.

One factor that all the members seem to agree on unanimously was maintaining stability in Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover after US troops pulled out two years ago.

A joint statement due to be released later will give more clues on how SCO nations aim to work together on Afghanistan.

China, Russia and four Central Asian countries formed the SCO in 2001 as a countermeasure to limit the influence of the West in the region. India and Pakistan joined the group in 2017.

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