Vladimir Putin mocked by world leaders: 'Show them our pecs'

Western leaders have openly mocked Russian president Vladimir Putin as they gathered to further tighten the screws on the Russian economy.

And while the ridicule from some of the most powerful world leaders triggered laughter, one expert tells Yahoo it could help fuel Putin's propaganda machine.

Leaders from the G7 nations – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States – met in the Bavarian Alps on Sunday (local time) in a meeting that was dominated by Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

As the leader sat down for their first meeting of the three day summit, they couldn't help but deride the Russian leader.

(L-R) Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, US President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, French President Emmanuel Macron and President of the European Council Charles Michel pose for an informal group photo sitting on a bench after a working dinner during the G7 Summit held at Elmau Castle, southern Germany on June 26, 2022.  Ludovic Marin /Pool via REUTERS
The G7 leaders met at Elmau Castle, in southern Germany overnight. Source: Getty

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked if their jackets should come off – or perhaps if they should disrobe further.

"We all have to show that we're tougher than Putin," Mr Johnson said, to laughter from some of his counterparts.

"Bare-chested horseback riding," shot back Canada's Justin Trudeau.

"Oh yes," said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. "Horseback riding is the best."

"We've got to show them our pecs," the British PM added.

Putin, who is eager to portray an athletic and strongman image, has been pictured shirtless several times in photos released by Russian state media, including one set in which he rode a brown horse while wearing wrap-around sunglasses, a gold chain and army trousers.

Putin steps up missile attacks

As the leaders met, Russia stepped up its military barrage as dozens of missiles struck targets across Ukraine. Civilians were targeted in the capital of Kyiv with missiles striking an apartment block and close to a kindergarten.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said six people were taken to hospital and a seven-year-old girl was pulled from the rubble, suggesting the attack was an attempt to send a message to G7 leaders.

"I don't think they're linked," says Associate Professor Matthew Sussex from the ANU's Strategic and Defence Studies Centre.

"I don't think he's shooting cruise missiles at Kyiv suburbs due to getting trolled at the G7," he told Yahoo News Australia.

Rescue workers work at an apartment building destroyed in a missile strike, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine June 26, 2022. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
Rescue workers work at an apartment building destroyed in a missile strike in Kyiv on June 26. Source: Reuters

However the usually pointed slander from world leaders could be used to reinforce the message domestically in Russia that the West is simply out to get the country.

"It just reinforces in [Putin's] mind the view that the West is decrepit and has it in for Russia and always has done, and that's how he'll spin it domestically.

"Shooting missiles at Kyiv, it may have been timed to coincide with the G7," Prof Sussex said. "But I wouldn't have thought it was in response to anything people said about bare-chested horse back riding ... or whatever.

"There's some suspicion that it was more about the Ukrainians starting to use the US' long range multiple rocket launching system and targeting [Russian] command and control facilities."

Putin has shown a proclivity for shirtless photography (left). Leaders of the US, France and Canada share a laugh at the G7 (right). Source: Getty
Putin has shown a proclivity for shirtless photography (left). Leaders of the US, France and Canada share a laugh at the G7 (right). Source: Getty

Putin's tactics could see war drag on for years

Following the initial G7 meeting, US President Joe Biden confirmed an "unprecedented" move to ban imports of Russian gold.

"The United States has imposed unprecedented costs on Putin to deny him the revenue he needs to fund his war against Ukraine," he tweeted. "Together, the G7 will announce that we will ban the import of Russian gold, a major export that rakes in tens of billions of dollars for Russia."

The latest sanctions are expected to hit Russia's wealthy elite.

"It does put the squeeze on some of the oligarchs because they've been attempting to get around sanctions by buying lots of gold," Associate Prof Sussex explained.

"They're aimed at amping up the pressure on the Russian elite, after the elites tried to find way around the sanctions."

Associate Professor Matthew Sussex expects the war to drag on for years. Source: ANU
Associate Professor Matthew Sussex expects the war to drag on for years. Source: ANU

As the war grinds on, Russian troops are slowly making gains in the far east of the country.

Putin's forces are currently fighting to achieve one of their strategic objectives as Moscow-backed separatists say they are pushing into Lysychansk, the last major city still held by Ukrainian troops in the eastern Luhansk province.

The brutal and attritional nature of the conflict works in favour of the Russian leader who is "betting the West will fragment".

"Keeping it going ... inching forward day by day. It suits him fine really," Associate Prof Sussex told Yahoo.

"And he can just wait the West out. This is why there's talk of the conflict lasting years, not just months."

"Realistically, if these are the tactics the Russians are going to use, it is going to take years. From the West's perspective, I think we need some strategic patience."

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