G20 leaders to hit Brisbane en masse

Brisbane will on Friday transform from the laid back capital of Queensland to the temporary home of some of the most powerful people in the world.

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Many of the G20 leaders will jet in throughout the day, including the presidents of China, Indonesia, India and South Korea, the prime ministers of the UK, Canada and Japan, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

But it will be the arrival of Russian President Vladimir Putin that is bound to attract most attention.

His visit is highly contentious due to Russia’s role in the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine in July. A total of 298 people, including 38 Australian citizens and residents, were killed in the disaster.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott – who last month said he would “shirtfront” Mr Putin on the MH17 issue – has already had one tense encounter with the Russian leader this week at the APEC summit in Beijing, and another is expected this weekend at the annual G20 summit.

Mr Putin will likely receive a hostile welcome from everyday Australians as well, with at least one anti-Putin protest planned for Saturday.

Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organisations president Stefan Romaniw has called on other G20 leaders to show their disapproval of Russia’s actions by imposing sanctions on the country and stripping it of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

“He needs to be hit hard, to be ostracised in that (G20) meeting and feel the full brunt of the international community,” he said.

More protests are expected as the world media’s attention switches to Brisbane. Several are scheduled for Friday.

Residents are being urged to head into the city over the weekend amid fears the CBD will resemble a ghost town, with a public holiday declared to reduce traffic congestion.

Brisbane City Council’s G20 chair Julian Simmonds encouraged people to visit South Bank, the botanic gardens or the city mall.

“Please don’t sit at home and watch the G20 pass by on the TV,” he said.

As many as 4000 delegates and 3000 reporters from around the globe will attend the gathering, which is costing half a billion dollars.

Queensland Tourism Minister Jann Stuckey says it will generate more than $100 million for Brisbane’s economy.

The last of the leaders arrive on Saturday, with US President Barack Obama and his huge entourage landing early in the morning. The president will deliver a speech at the University of Queensland before joining other G20 leaders.