Several world leaders with strong Russian ties have recently rebuked Putin over his war.
It demonstrates that even semi-allies are willing to snub him over his aggression in Ukraine.
India’s Modi, China’s Xi, and Turkey’s Erdoğan have all made stinging public comments.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement that he is escalating his Ukraine invasion by bringing in reservists came after rebukes from a number of countries with strong ties to Russia.
Sanctions and moral condemnation from Western and other major powers had left Russia largely isolated on the world stage.
But Putin had been at least partially shored up by months of support — or at least a lack of action — from some leaders.
Major powers like China and India have offered Russia some lifelines by refusing to enact sanctions and buying up Russian energy.
Turkey has also a walked tightrope. It declined to sanction Russia, and gave Russia’s sanctioned oligarchs safe harbor, even as it condemned the war.
And pariah states like North Korea and Iran have been willing to supply munitions to Russia.
But new signals in the run up to Putin’s latest escalation suggest that even his tentative allies are ready to pressure Putin to end his aggression.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told PBS News Hour in an interview published Monday that Russia should not just retreat from the lands invaded it since February 24, but it should also “return Crimea to its rightful owners.”
It’s not a new sentiment — Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, has a significant population of Tatars, a group with ties to Turkey.
But the words come weeks after Ukraine’s president made returning Crimea a key condition of peace with Russia.
Erdoğan also outright condemned the war, saying: “No invasion can be justified.”
On Monday, it also emerged that two major Turkish banks would not longer accept cards from the Russian Mir banking system, The Moscow Times reported.
In July, Erdoğan kept Putin waiting for almost a full minute in front of state cameras at a summit. It was read as payback for similar treatment by Putin in 2021 — keeping leaders waiting being one of his favorite gambits.
India has, like China, kept buying Russian energy — a move that largely offset losses from Western sanctions, the Financial Times reported.
India has also held back from UN votes supporting Ukraine.
But on Friday, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi directly chided Putin.
“I know that today’s era is not an era of war, and I have spoken to you on the phone about this,” Modi said, according to Reuters.
On September 15, Putin acknowledged at a summit with Xi Jinping that China has “concerns” about Russia’s invasion.
“We understand your questions and concerns in this regard,” Putin said, according to The New York Times. The admission is a signal that the two countries’ close partnership stops at outright support for the war.
Despite its longstanding ties to Russia, China has largely shied away from becoming embroiled in the war on either side, and has halted sales of drones to either country since April, as Reuters reported.
While Ukraine acquired high-tech drone equipment from Western allies, Russia has turned to Iran to obtain drones.
The public nature of Putin’s conversations with Xi and Modi make them sting more, said former US ambassador to Ukraine Michael McFaul.
“Xi and Modi clearly wanted to signal to the world that they don’t support Putin’s barbaric, reckless, and losing war in Ukraine,” he tweeted.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken also highlighted the remarks as indicators of Russia’s growing isolation.
“I think what you’re hearing from China, from India, is reflective of concerns around the world about the effects of Russia’s aggression on Ukraine, not just on the people of Ukraine,” Al Jazeera reported him as saying.
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