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G7 leaders to impose further sanctions on Russia over escalating Ukraine crisis

The sanctions could be imposed as early as Monday.

Masked pro Russian militants stand guard at the barricades in Slovyansk , eastern Ukraine.
Masked pro Russian militants stand guard at the barricades in Slovyansk , eastern Ukraine.
Image: AP

THE G7 LEADERS have agreed to “move swiftly” to impose additional economic sanctions on Russia in response to its actions in Ukraine.

In a joint statement released last night by the White House, the G7 nations said they will act urgently to intensify “targeted sanctions.” The statement said the G7 will also continue to prepare broader sanctions on key Russian economic sectors if Moscow takes more aggressive action.

The White House said US sanctions could be levied as early as Monday.

The announcement came as top Ukrainians spoke of imminent invasion and Moscow said that pro-Russian separatists would not lay down their arms in eastern Ukraine until activists relinquish control over key sites in Kiev.

Sanctions

The G7 nations said they were moving forward on the targeted sanctions now because of the urgency of securing plans for Ukraine to hold presidential elections next month.

The penalties are expected to target wealthy Russian individuals who are close to President Vladimir Putin, as well as entities they run. However, the US will continue to hold off on targeting broad swaths of the Russian economy, though the president has said he is willing to take that step if Putin launches a military incursion in eastern Ukraine.

A senior Obama administration official said each country in the G7 would determine their own sanctions.

While the sanctions will be coordinated, they will not necessarily be identical, according to the official, who was not authorised to discuss the matter publicly and insisted on anonymity.

Ukraine Source: AP

Conference

The White House released the G7 statement hours after Obama convened a conference call with European leaders to gauge their commitment to additional sanctions.

Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, said in a briefing with reporters that sanctions were possible on individuals with influence in specific sectors of the Russian economy, such as energy and banking.

“When you start to get at the cronies, the individuals who frankly control large parts of the Russia economy, and some of the entities under their control, you are imposing a significant economic impact beyond strictly sanctioning an individual,” he said.

Tensions were heightened on the ground, with Russian fighter jets reported crossing into Ukrainian airspace and a team of unarmed foreign military observers detained by pro-Russian forces in Slovyansk, the heart of the separatist movement in the east.

With last week’s Geneva agreement calling on all illegal armed groups to lay down their weapons and hand over occupied cities and facilities in tatters, both sides exchanged threats and warnings on Friday.

Control

Accusing the West of plotting to control Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov declared that pro-Russia insurgents in the country’s east would only disarm and leave the territory they have occupied if the Ukrainian government clears out a protest camp in Kiev’s Independence Square, known as the Maidan, and evicts activists from other occupied facilities.

Ukraine Pro Russian masked militants refurbish old rifles in Slovyansk. Source: AP

“The West wants — and this is how it all began — to seize control of Ukraine because of their own political ambitions, not in the interests of the Ukrainian people,” Lavrov said.

Pro-Russia insurgents will disarm and vacate buildings “only if Kiev authorities get down to implementing the Geneva accords, clear out that shameful Maidan and liberate the buildings that have been illegally seized,” the Russian foreign minister said.

Ukraine’s reaction was swift.

“The world has not yet forgotten World War II, but Russia is already keen on starting World War III,” Ukraine’s acting prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk told a meeting of his Cabinet.

At the United Nations, Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister, Danylo Lubkivsky said he feared an imminent Russian invasion.

“We have the information we are in danger,” Lubkivsky told reporters, saying Russian military maneuvers involving air and ground forces along the Ukraine border were a “very dangerous development.”

Motherland

“We are going to protect our motherland against any invasion,” Lubkivsky said. “We call on the Russians to stop this madness.”

The heightened rhetoric came as U.S. officials reported that Russian fighter jets flew into Ukrainian airspace several times over the last 24 hours, in what one called a provocation.

It wasn’t clear what the intent was, but the aircraft could have been testing Ukrainian radar or making a show of force, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly about the issue.

The flights came as Russia increased military exercises along the Ukraine border, including moving a broad array of fixed wing and rotary aircraft, infantry and armored troops — further inflaming fears of a potential Russian military incursion into Ukraine.

Read: Russia is trying to trigger World War III – Kiev>

Read: Russian military exercises on Ukraine border could be ‘expensive mistake’ >

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Associated Press

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