Leaders of the G7 industrial nations meeting in Brussels say they are prepared to impose further sanctions on Russia over its actions in Ukraine.
Late Wednesday, G7 leaders urged Moscow to respect the results of Ukraine\’s presidential election, stop the flow of fighters and weapons to the eastern part of the country, and completely withdraw troops from its border with Ukraine.
The joint statement threatened to "intensify targeted sanctions and to implement significant additional restrictive measures to impose further costs on Russia, should events so require."
The G7 summit is the first since Russia was expelled from the group following its annexation of Crimea in March.
On Thursday, leaders are set to discuss the global economic outlook, climate change and development issues.
However, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said that further sanctions would take effect only if there had been "no progress whatsoever".
Russian President Vladimir Putin was not invited to the summit, a move that came in response to Moscow\’s incursion into and annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in March.
Putin on Wednesday played down the boycott, but insisted he was open to dialogue with Ukraine\’s president-elect, Petro Poroshenko.
The Russian president is scheduled to meet Friday with French President Francois Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The meetings will come at a ceremony in Normandy, France to mark the 70th anniversary of the allied D-Day invasion against Nazi forces in World War II.
Underscoring frosty U.S.-Russia ties, Putin is not expected to meet with President Barack Obama at the event.
Speaking in Poland, President Obama on Wednesday condemned what he called Russia\’s "dark tactics" in Ukraine.
Obama also met with Ukrainian president-elect Poroshenko in Warsaw, where he announced $5 million in non-lethal aid to help Ukraine\’s military forces in their effort to battle pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
The money will go toward the purchase of body armor, night vision goggles and communications equipment.
Obama said the international community must support efforts to negotiate with Russia and ensure that Russia does not finance, arm or support separatists in Ukraine. He said the world must be willing to enact consequences against Russia.
The crisis began when then Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich rejected an association deal with the EU late last year, triggering protests that ended in his downfall in February, and were followed by months of clashes between the new government and pro-Moscow rebels.
The West imposed sanctions on Russia for its alleged involvement in the conflict, but some European leaders whose economies are exposed to Moscow have chosen to limit pressure on Putin.
The last meeting of the G7 took place in May 2013 in Aylesbury in the United Kingdom, with an emergency meeting in The Hague, Netherlands on March 24, 2014.
The summit was originally to have been held in the Russian city of Sochi.
Source – Agencies