G-7 foreign ministers agree to keep up pressure on Russia

Mar 18 , 2022. 9 hours ago – 01:06 KYODO NEWS

TOKYO – Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven industrial powers on Thursday agreed to keep up pressure on Russia and provide more humanitarian assistance to Ukraine as the war between them has entered its fourth week, Japan’s foreign minister said.

The ministers also agreed to strengthen support for Moldova and other countries near Ukraine as they try to deal with a flood of refugees from the war-torn country, Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told reporters after meeting his counterparts virtually.

As Russia continues to shell residential areas across large parts of Ukraine, resulting in the deaths of many civilians, Hayashi said, “We reaffirmed that we urge Russia to immediately stop its attack.”

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi attends an online meeting of Group of Seven foreign ministers on March 17, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Japan’s Foreign Ministry)(Kyodo)

In particular, to back Moldova’s struggling efforts to accept refugees from Ukraine, Hayashi said top diplomats representing Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, plus the European Union, agreed to set up a special support group.

The group will also involve other countries and international organizations, and the G-7 nations will determine its specific functions and members “as soon as possible,” he said.

The number of people fleeing Ukraine is estimated to have topped three million as of Wednesday, according to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

Despite international condemnation and efforts for a cease-fire, Russia, which started invading Ukraine on Feb. 24, has not indicated that it plans to end the largest assault on a European country since World War II anytime soon.

The virtual meeting comes after G-7 leaders pledged last week to revoke Russia’s “most favored nation” status at the World Trade Organization, enabling it to trade goods on the best possible terms, such as low tariffs, as part of fresh economic sanctions on Moscow.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a government meeting on Wednesday that his country will continue military operations in Ukraine until its goals are achieved.

At cease-fire talks with Kyiv, the Kremlin has so far called for its sovereignty over Crimea, which it annexed from Ukraine in 2014, to be recognized, as well as the “demilitarization” and “neutralization” of the country that was formerly a part of the Soviet Union but has moved closer to the West in recent times.

On Wednesday, U.S. President Joe Biden announced an additional $800 million in security assistance to Ukraine, including hundreds of anti-aircraft systems, small arms and drones, following Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s virtual address to the U.S. Congress, in which he sought more help.

Under a widening array of economic penalties that the United States and its partners have imposed, several Russian banks have already been excluded from a key international payment network known as SWIFT. They have also frozen the assets of Putin, senior Russian government officials, lawmakers and oligarchs.

Belarus, which borders Ukraine to the north, has faced similar economic sanctions for its role in aiding Russia’s aggression.

The foreign chiefs of the seven countries and the European Union last held talks on March 4, in which they agreed to “continue to impose further severe sanctions” on Russia and Belarus if Moscow does not change course.