Putin backers, protesters put their case

The most controversial leader at the G20 summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been branded a killer and praised as a ruler of steel, all in the same day.


The president is having a tense time at the Brisbane summit, as Western leaders threaten Russia with new sanctions over the shooting down of flight MH17 and deplore Russian-backed military aggression in eastern Ukraine.

They also accuse Mr Putin of bullying over Russian military flights in Japanese airspace over disputed islands and of naval posturing by sending warships to the South Pacific.

But Brisbane’s small Cossack community begged to differ with international opinion by staging a 30-person march in support of the president, and calling for an end to democracy in Russia.

“We just need a steel ruler and we encourage Putin,” Cossack leader Simeon Boikov said.

“We don’t need Russian democracy – this was an American flag that was brought in to bring pornography, drugs and immorality to the people under the guise of freedom.

“We want Russia to become an empire.”

Mr Boikov mocked every other world leader at G20, including Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who had threatened to shirt-front Mr Putin over the MH17 atrocity.

“You know what they compare it to? A fly annoying a bull and the bull just waves his tail and the fly goes away,” he said.

“You can guess who’s the fly and who is the bull.”

But elsewhere in Brisbane, 200 Ukrainian Australians gathered to call the Russian leader a “sly killer”.

Young protesters, wearing headbands proclaiming “Putin, killer”, laid down on a large Ukrainian flag near the G20 summit venue, claiming Mr Putin had the blood of their compatriots and MH17 passengers on his hands.

Their bodies were draped with the flags of the nations that lost citizens when the Malaysia Airlines flight was shot down in July, killing 298 people, including 38 Australian citizens and residents.

They also demanded the president answer for the deaths of Ukrainians killed as a result of his support for pro-Russian separatists.

The protesters, some wearing national dress and holding signs proclaiming, “Putin is a sly killer”, chanted in Ukrainian “glory to Ukraine, glory to the heroes”.

Stefan Romaniw, president of the Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organisations (AFUO), said the Russian leader should “get on his bike and go”.

“You are not part of the international community”, he shouted, urging G20 leaders to impose more sanctions on Russia.

“Mr Putin, you do not have a seat at that table, but unfortunately some of the members of the G20 insisted.”

AFUO spokesman Peter Schmiggle said the Russian government probably funded the earlier Cossack demonstration.

“One of the great things about Australia is that people with all points of view get to make their views known in a democratic society, but that’s the kind of society Putin objects to,” he told AAP.

“I say to the people who are pro-Putin, `who are your backers? Are you paid by the Russian government? Where do get your money?'”

Both protests were peaceful and no one was arrested.