World leaders meeting in Brussels urged Russian President Vladimir Putin Wednesday to halt actions aimed at destabilising Ukraine or face further sanctions as the Group of Seven (G7) met without a Russian leader for the first time since the 1990s.
Putin was banned from the G7 summit – known as the G8 when Russia participates – following the Russian annexation of Crimea in March. The G7 summit was to have been hosted by Putin at the Black Sea resort of Sochi but the venue was switched to Brussels following the crisis over Crimea.
In a joint communiqué the G7 said Putin must recognise the results of Ukraine's May 25 presidential election, stem destabilisation in the east of the country and pull Russian troops back from the border.
"Actions to destabilise eastern Ukraine are unacceptable and must stop," the group said.
"We stand ready to intensify targeted sanctions and to implement significant additional restrictive measures to impose further costs on Russia should events so require."
On the second and last day of the G7 summit on Thursday, Ukraine is again expected to dominate the talks – with Europe's gas dependency on Russia and the wider issue of energy security also high on the agenda along with climate change, a controversial EU-US trade pact and the global economic recovery.
G7 leaders said that while they still hoped for "constructive" talks with Putin on the sidelines of D-Day commemorations in France on Thursday and Friday, Moscow could face further punitive measures.
The Kremlin has made recent moves toward rapprochement, with Putin saying that he was willing to meet Ukraine's president-elect, Petro Poroshenko.
Leaders meet again starting at 7:30am GMT followed by a press conference scheduled for 12:15pm GMT.
D-Day diplomatic manoeuvres
US President Barack Obama has shown no signs of wanting a meeting with Putin, despite the fact that both will be in Normandy to mark the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Europe during World War II.
Obama criticised Russia's "dark tactics" in Ukraine in a hawkish speech in Warsaw this week that was reminiscent of some of the darkest days of the Cold War.
"How can we allow the dark tactics of the 20th century to define this new century?" Obama asked in a speech marking 25 years of Polish democracy after the Cold War.
Obama has promised years of US support for Ukraine and for other ex-communist NATO states, plus a $1 billion fund for new military rotations through Eastern Europe.
Earlier in Brussels, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced a review of the US troop presence in Europe.
Obama met with Poroshenko Wednesday in a show of US support for Ukraine's new leader and declared himself "deeply impressed" by the chocolate tycoon.
Other G7 leaders – whose economies are more exposed to Russia than is Washington's – have taken a more diplomatic tone on the Ukraine crisis.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that EU leaders would "take stock" of Russian actions at another summit at the end of June and at that time "reflect which further sanctions are necessary".
But Merkel – who is due to meet with Putin in France on the sidelines of the D-Day commemorations – said that "the main thing is to be constructive" and that further sanctions would take effect only if there had been "no progress whatsoever".
French President François Hollande – who is scheduled to have separate dinners with both Putin and Obama in Paris on Thursday – has said that "dialogue and de-escalation must be encouraged".
British Prime Minister David Cameron said he would be taking a similar message to Putin when he meets with him also on Thursday.
Putin hinted that he could meet both Poroshenko and even Obama, saying "I don't plan to avoid anyone". But he also taunted the United States and waved away widespread allegations of Russian military involvement in eastern Ukraine.
"Proof? Let's see it!" he said. "The entire world remembers the US secretary of state demonstrating the evidence of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, waving around some test tube with washing powder in the UN Security Council."
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2014-06-05