Sunday

17th Feb 2019

G7 leaders make case for extending Russia sanctions

  • Obama got a warm welcome despite recent controversy on US and German espionage (Photo: bundeskanzlerin.de)

EU Council chief Donald Tusk has said it’s “realistic” the EU will extend Russia economic sanctions following the fighting in Marinka, Ukraine.

Speaking at the opening of the G7 summit at the Schloss Elmau in Germany, he said “it’s realistic, in fact moderate, but also consistent” for EU leaders to take the step when they meet in Brussels later this month.

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  • Putin was excluded from the G8 after he annexed Crimea (Photo: bundeskanzlerin.de)

He also said the “formal, technical decision” - the legal act underpininng the move - can be “arranged in the next few days”.

EU leaders, in March, already threatened to extend the measures, which target Russian banks, arms firms, and energy companies, from July until December. But some Russia-friendly states, including Greece, Hungary, and Italy, have criticised the idea.

Tusk noted that pro-Russian forces’ attempt to capture the Ukrainian town of Marinka this is another “clear violation” of the so-called Minsk ceasefire agreement.

“Given the current situation, if anyone wants to start a debate about changing the sanctions regime, the discussion could only be about strengthening it”, he said.

He added that he'll seek “clear political support” for the extension from G7 states - Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the US - at the Schloss Elmau event.

Recalling Russia’s exclusion, due its annexation of Crimea last year, from what used to be G8 summits, Tusk said: “Russia is not among us here today and will not be invited as long as it behaves aggressively against Ukraine and other countries”.

His words were echoed by other G7 leaders.

US president Barack Obama, who met German chancellor Angela Merkel in Kruen, a local town, ahead of plenary talks, noted: "We're going to discuss … standing up to Russian aggression in Ukraine”.

The two agreed EU and US sanctions should stay in place until there’s “full implementation" of Minsk, the White House said.

Merkel, in an interview with German broadcaster DW the same day, noted that “Russia remains an important partner” on issues such as Iran and Syria.

But she added: “Russia has not made … progress in the past few years toward adopting many of the ideas that we share in the G7”.

David Cameron, the British leader, told media: "It [the EU sanctions regime] has an impact on all countries. [But] Britain hasn't let our pre-eminence in financial services get in the way of taking a robust response to Russian-backed aggression and I don't think other countries should either”.

Absent guest

For his part, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, in an interview with Italian daily Corriere della Sera on Saturday, repeated claims the US staged the Ukraine crisis for geostrategic reasons.

“Let’s suppose the United States would like to maintain its leadership in the Atlantic community. It needs an external threat, an external enemy to ensure this leadership … Who can be frightening? And then suddenly this crisis unfolds in Ukraine. Russia is forced to respond. Perhaps, it was engineered on purpose.”

He urged Greek and Italian leaders to put national interests ahead of EU or Western solidarity, whether on the Greek financial crisis or on EU-Russia trade.

“It is up to the Greek people to make a sovereign decision as to which union and [currency] zone to be part of”, he said.

He noted that Italy-Russia trade has grown 11-fold “in recent years”, that there are 400 Italian companies active in Russia, and that Russian tourists spend €1 billion in Italy each year.

“All this ... lays the foundation for a special relationship”, Putin, who did the interview ahead of his visit to the Milan Expo, said.

“My Italian partners have always put the interests of Italy, of the Italian people, first and believed that in order to serve the interests of their country, including economic and political interests, they must maintain friendly relations with Russia”.

Fifa scandal spotlights Russia

Campaigners for tougher sanctions on Russia are saying it should lose the 2018 football World Cup if US or Swiss sleuths uncover corruption.

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