G7 warns of more Russia sanctions if crisis in Ukraine escalates
US President Barack Obama and major industrialised allies have warned Russia it faced damaging economic sanctions if President Vladimir Putin takes further action to destabilise Ukraine following the seizure of Crimea.
Leaders of the Group of Seven summit, meeting without Russia, agreed to hold their own summit this year instead of attending a planned G8 meeting in the Russian Olympic venue of Sochi, just along the Black Sea from Crimea, and to suspend their participation in the G8 until Russia changes course.
On a day when Kiev ordered its remaining troops to withdraw from Crimea and Russian forces used force to capture a marine base and a landing ship, leaders of the United States, Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Japan and Canada condemned what they called "Russia's illegal attempt to annex Crimea in contravention of international law".
They also agreed to work together to reduce their dependence on Russian oil and gas.
"We remain ready to intensify actions including coordinated sectoral sanctions that will have an increasingly significant impact on the Russian economy, if Russia continues to escalate this situation," they said in a joint statement.
The G7 leaders, who met on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit in The Hague, said they would meet again in Brussels in early June, the first time since Russia joined the G8 in 1998 that it will have been shut out of the annual summit of industrialised democracies.
Obama, who has imposed tougher sanctions on Moscow than European leaders over its takeover of the strategic peninsula, told reporters: "Europe and America are united in our support of the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people".
"We're united in imposing a cost on Russia for its actions so far," he said of the visa bans and asset freezes slapped on senior Russian and Crimean officials.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov sought to play down the G8 boycott.
"If our Western partners believe the format has exhausted itself, we don't cling to this format. We don't believe it will be a big problem if it doesn't convene," he told reporters.