Date
30 March 2017
President Barack Obama and Chancellor Angela Merkel attend a concert on the sidelines of the G7 summit in the Bavarian Alps. Photo: Reuters
President Barack Obama and Chancellor Angela Merkel attend a concert on the sidelines of the G7 summit in the Bavarian Alps. Photo: Reuters

G7 leaders tighten screws on Russia over Ukraine

Group of Seven (G7) leaders will keep sanctions against Russia in place until President Vladimir Putin and Moscow-backed separatists fully implement a peace deal on Ukraine.

They want Russia and Ukraine to comply with a Feb. 12 ceasefire that largely halted fighting in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian government forces.

In March, they agreed that sanctions imposed over Russia’s seizure and annexation of Crimea and de-tribalization of eastern Ukraine would stay until the ceasefire deal was fully applied.

That effectively extended the sanctions to the end of the year but a formal decision has yet to be taken.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is hosting the leaders summit in the Bavarian Alps, said any easing of the sanctions depends largely on Russia and its behavior in Ukraine.

European Council President Donald Tusk said if anyone wants to “start a discussion about changing the sanctions regime, it could only be about strengthening it”.

European monitors have blamed a recent upsurge in violence in eastern Ukraine on the pro-Moscow separatists.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was frozen out of what used to be the G8 after Moscow’s annexation of Crimea last year.

Before the summit, Merkel held a bilateral meeting with Obama and they attended an outdoor party in the idyllic Alpine village of Kruen under blue skies, surrounded by Bavarians in traditional dress.

The Ukraine conflict and a long-running debt standoff between Greece and its European partners dominated the first day of the annual meeting.

Merkel is hoping to secure commitments from her G7 guests to tackle global warming ahead of a major United Nations climate summit in Paris in December.

The German agenda also foresees discussions on global health issues, from Ebola to antibiotics and tropical diseases. But Ukraine took center stage on Sunday, with Obama calling for “standing up to Russian aggression”.

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