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Russia's President Vladimir Putin during a video conference meeting on the COVID-19 cornavirus situation in Russia, at Novo-Ogaryovo residence. Alexei Druzhinin/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS

The coronavirus pandemic has triggered a systemic economic crisis, unprecedented since the Great Depression, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, addressing the G20 summit on Saturday.

“The scale of problems that mankind faced in 2020 is indeed unprecedented. The coronavirus pandemic, a global lockdown and suspended economic activities triggered a systemic economic crisis, the likes of which the world has not seen since the Great Depression,” Putin pointed out.

The Russian president also said that the economic growth of countries had been seriously affected by the pandemic.

“The pandemic has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and millions of people have lost their jobs,” Putin noted.

Mass unemployment and rising poverty remain major global challenges, Russian President said. “Despite some positive signs, mass long-term unemployment, which leads to a rise in poverty and social dislocation, remains a major global challenge and the G20’s role is to prevent it,” Putin pointed out.

“Based on the experience of the fight against the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, the G20 group has launched a number of multilateral initiatives to combat economic risks related to the pandemic and restore business activities, particularly through global governance institutions, including the United Nations, the World Health Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and others,” Putin noted.

The G20 group needs to continue efforts to find common approaches to reforming the World Trade Organization (WTO), Vladimir Putin said. “The G20 group needs to continue efforts to find common approaches to reforming the World Trade Organization, taking the current challenges into account,” Putin emphasized. According to him, “it is impossible to achieve this goal without a stable, effective and multilateral trading system based on universal rules and principles, and there is no alternative to the World Trade Organization at the moment.”.

“We need to address pressing issues related to global trade. In particular, there is a need to try to contain protectionism, abandon the practice of unilateral sanctions and restore supply chains,” Putin stresses.

“The current agenda also includes the need to tailor multilateral universal trade rules to digital commerce – there is much to be done in this field – as well as to other economic realities,” the Russian leader said.

Effective and safe vaccines should be available to everyone and Russia is ready to provide its coronavirus vaccines to the countries in need, Putin said. According to him, “Russia supports the summit’s draft decision aimed at making effective and safe vaccines available to everyone.” “Undoubtedly, vaccines should belong to the entire public,” Putin pointed out. “Russia, is certainly ready to provide vaccines developed by our scientists to the countries in need,” he added, particularly referring to the world’s first registered coronavirus vaccine named Sputnik V. “Russia’s second vaccine, EpiVacCorona, which was developed by a Novosibirsk research center, is also ready. Work on a third vaccine is in its final stages,” Putin added.

He noted that “the scale of the pandemic makes it necessary to use all the existing resources and practices.” The common goal is “to form a portfolio of vaccines and provide strong protection to the entire global population.” “It means that there will be enough work for everyone,” Putin noted. “I think that this is the time when competition may be inevitable but we need to be guided, first and foremost, by humanitarian concerns,” the Russian president emphasized.

There is a need to take advantage of the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic to change the trajectory of global development, Vladimir Putin said. “There is a need to take advantage of the current crisis to change the trajectory of global development, maintain a clean environment, provide equal conditions to all countries, boost effective mechanisms of multilateral cooperation and key international organizations, based on the UN Charter and universally recognized rules and principles of international law,” the Russian president emphasized.

In Russia’s view, this is the approach that the G20 needs to adopt as a group of the world’s leading economies, Putin added.

Additional measures should be taken to prevent economic and social inequality between countries from growing, Russian President said. “We understand that developing economies and a number of countries where a market economy is emerging lack the capacity” to take meaningful measures of support amid the economic difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Putin noted.

“The devaluation of national currencies and, consequently, the rising cost of servicing public debts pose a major challenge, primarily to low-income countries, where two-thirds of loans are denominated in US dollars,” the Russian president pointed out.

According to Putin, “the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank provided significant assistance to developing countries and it was at their initiative that the G20 decided to introduce a temporary debt moratorium in April.” “I think that additional measures should be taken to stop the situation from deteriorating and prevent economic and social inequality between countries from growing,” Putin emphasized.

Russia has spent 4.5% of its GDP to mitigate the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, Putin said. According to him, “by taking timely measures, Russia, as well as most other developed countries, managed to mitigate the economic decline, boost the healthcare system and escape permanent damage.”

Putin pointed out that like many other countries, Russia took unprecedented crisis response measures, focusing on the need to protect the health and lives of the country’s people. “In order to ensure the sustainability of the national economy and maintain social stability, the Russian government and the Central Bank are implementing a comprehensive plan aimed at providing support to the people, small and medium-sized businesses and endangered industries. The banking sector and the country’s regions received support, loans were provided to businesses and state investment went up,” Putin added.

When speaking about the G20’s activities, Putin noted that the group had formed a stimulus package worth $12 trillion to boost global economy amid the pandemic. He added that the G20 countries “mobilized $21 billion to address urgent medical needs and launched international cooperation in the development, production and distribution of vaccines.”.