US President Barack Obama accused President Vladimir Putin of wrecking Russia’s economy in a stubborn attempt to recreate the past glories of the Soviet empire, while the Group of Seven (G7) countries, consisting of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, cautioned Russia that tougher sanctions could be implemented if necessary.
In a news conference on Monday at the end of the G7 summit in the Bavarian Alps, Obama spared no words to describe his counterpart. He said Russian people were suffering because of Putin’s policies.
By continuing to operate in eastern Ukraine, Obama said, Russian forces were “violating Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Putin was not invited to the summit because of the conflict in Ukraine, and the Group of Eight became the Group of Seven with Russia’s exclusion. This was the second time the G7 nations held a summit together without Russia, whose annexation of Crimea in 2014 they condemn as “illegal.”
G7 leaders expressed concern about the fighting in Ukraine between Russian-backed separatists and Kiev’s troops which does not seem to abate despite a ceasefire agreement made in April.
“Russia is in deep recession. So Russia’s actions in Ukraine are hurting Russia and hurting the Russian people,” Obama elaborated. He said in the end, Putin has to make a decision.
“Does he continue to wreck his country’s economy and continue Russia’s isolation in pursuit of a wrongheaded desire to recreate the glories of the Soviet empire, or does he recognise that Russia’s greatness does not depend on violating the territorial integrity and sovereignty of other countries?” Obama questioned.
He warned that if Russia continued its risky behaviour in Ukraine, “additional steps” could be taken.
“If Russia, working through separatists, doubles down on aggression inside of Ukraine,” he said, then the United States and the European Union would increase their sanctions, Obama said.
Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, said the current sanctions would remain in place until Russia heeded the peace plan agreed in Minsk in February.
G7’s European members - Britain, Italy and France - said they would support the extension of the main EU sanctions when they met later this month, the Guardian reported.
“We also stand ready to take further restrictive measures in order to increase [the] cost on Russia should its actions so require,” the G7 warned in its 17-page communique. As for what Russia was asked to do, the declaration was clear: “To stop transborder support of separatist forces and to use its considerable influence over the separatists.”