G7 consider new Russia sanctions
KIEV – G7 ministers on Thursday discussed imposing new sanctions on Russia on the eve of the first anniversary of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, as the UN General Assembly prepared to vote on a motion calling for a “durable” peace.
The years-long conflict has devastated large parts of Ukraine, made Russia a pariah in the West and claimed 150,000 lives on both sides, according to Western sources.
Approaching the first anniversary of Russian troops storming across the border on February 24, 2022 has seen Western leaders step up their unity with Kiev, with the Spanish prime minister being the latest leader to visit the capital on Thursday.
“This has been the most difficult year of my life and of all Ukrainians,” said Diana Chestakova, 23, who works for a publishing company and whose boyfriend spent the last year in the military.
“I’m sure we will win, but we don’t know how long we have to wait and how many more casualties there will be.”
In Moscow, President Vladimir Putin pledged to boost arms production as Russia marked the annual Defender of the Fatherland Day holiday.
In India, a group of seven finance ministers met in the city of Bengaluru to discuss further sanctions and more financial aid to Ukraine.
A senior US official said the United States and its G7 allies planned to unveil “a major new package of sanctions” around the anniversary, including measures to crack down on circumvention of existing sanctions.
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told the G7 meeting that the unprecedented Western sanctions imposed on Moscow over the past 12 months are severely damaging Russia.
– ‘Negative Effect’ –
“Our sanctions have had a very negative impact on Russia so far… Russia now has a significant budget deficit,” Yellen said.
“It’s extremely difficult to… obtain the material it needs to replenish its ammunition and repair, for example, 9,000 tanks destroyed by the war,” she added.
“We will stand by Ukraine and its people until peace returns to Europe,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez tweeted after arriving in Kiev by train and before meeting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
In New York on Thursday, the UN General Assembly was scheduled to vote on a proposal backed by Kiev and its allies calling for a “just and lasting peace”.
“Never in recent history has the line between good and evil been so clear. A country just wants to live. The other wants to kill and destroy,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told the world organization.
The Kremlin ambassador to the UN accused the West of being “ready to plunge the whole world into the abyss of war” in order to defeat Russia.
On Thursday, Putin laid flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow before meeting with soldiers in Red Square under blue skies and brisk temperatures.
“We will prioritize strengthening our defense capabilities,” he said in a video address.
Russia will equip troops with “new assault systems, reconnaissance and communications equipment, drones and artillery systems,” he added, saluting Russian soldiers who he said were fighting “heroically” in Ukraine and defending “our historic lands.”
Russia’s “unbreakable unity is the key to our victory,” he said.
– Relations between China and Russia –
US President Joe Biden ended a three-day visit to Europe on Wednesday, during which he met leaders from NATO and Eastern European countries.
Biden and European leaders in Warsaw pledged to “strengthen our deterrence and defense posture across the entire eastern flank from the Baltic to the Black Sea.”
In Moscow, Russia strengthened ties with China when Putin met Beijing’s top diplomat Wang Yi after Washington and NATO raised concerns that China could be preparing to supply Russia with arms.
Putin said Russia-China cooperation is “very important to stabilize the international situation.”
An ad released by Chinese state news agency Xinhua after the meeting quoted Wang as saying China stands ready to “deep political trust” and strengthen “strategic coordination” with Russia.
China will “take an objective and fair position and play a constructive role in solving the crisis through political means,” it said.
Moscow said on Wednesday Beijing set out its views on ways to reach a “political settlement” in Ukraine following Wang’s visit.
When the Kremlin launched its invasion of Ukraine, it was conceived as a quick conquest that would lead to surrender and the establishment of a pro-Russian regime.
Since then, Russia has been forced to give up ground but has maintained a barrage of drone and missile strikes while the military and civilian toll has skyrocketed.
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