Group of Seven (G7) leaders say they won’t hold a summit with Russia this year following its annexation of Crimea, hours after Ukraine ordered the complete withdrawal of all of its troops from the peninsula.
“At the moment the G8 does not exist either as a summit or as a format,” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel in The Hague, referring to the expanded group of industrialised nations, which includes Russia.
She was speaking before leaders from the G7 – comprising Germany, the US, Britain, Italy, Canada, France and Japan – held emergency talks on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit.
Preparations for a June meeting in Sochi had already been suspended, and British Prime Minister David Cameron said G7 leaders should consider permanently expelling Russia from the G8.
But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, representing Russia after Putin cancelled his attendance at the nuclear summit, seemed unconcerned by the G7’s move.
“The G8 is an informal club, there are no membership cards. Nobody can thrown anybody out,” he said, adding: “All important issues are now discussed in the G20.”
Washington and Brussels have already imposed sanctions on several people close to Russian President Vladimir Putin and have threatened wider economic measures.
Arriving in the Netherlands, US President Barack Obama said Europe and America were “united in imposing a cost on Russia for its actions so far”.
Itar-Tass news agency reported that Lavrov was to meet his Ukrainian counterpart Andriy Deshchytsia on the nuclear summit’s sidelines.
It would be the highest level meeting between the two countries since the change of leadership in Kiev at the end of February.
Deshchytsia insisted that Kiev wanted “to live peacefully” with its northern neighbour and told reporters in The Hague that he was “open for dialogue” with Moscow.
However, he also said Kiev would welcome another phase of sanctions from the US and Europe.
Meanwhile, Western leaders also expressed concerns about the massing of Russian troops on Ukraine’s borders. Putin has denied that Moscow has any intention of further military action in the country.
The G7 talks took place hours after Ukraine ordered the complete withdrawal of all of its military forces from Crimea, which was formally annexed by Russia on Friday.