The leaders of the Group of Seven economies pledged to levy further sanctions on Russia in a bid to stop its war in Ukraine, according to a joint statement released after their online summit Friday, the first anniversary of Moscow's invasion of its neighbor.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy joined the video gathering, the first summit presided over by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. Japan, this year's chair of the G-7, is scheduled to host the three-day in-person summit in May.
The G-7 members reaffirmed their "unwavering support" for Kyiv during their virtual summit, the joint statement said, with worries mounting that Moscow may launch a large-scale offensive in Ukraine in the spring.
"We condemn Russia's illegal, unjustifiable, and unprovoked war," the G-7 statement said, adding, "We commit to intensifying our diplomatic, financial and military support for Ukraine" and to "increasing the costs to Russia."
"Russia started this war and Russia can end this war. We call on Russia to stop its ongoing aggression and to immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw its troops from the entire internationally recognized territory of Ukraine," the G-7 said.
The statement added that the G-7 will impose "new coordinated economic actions" against Moscow "in the days and weeks ahead," such as taking steps in relation to the country's financial sector to "further undermine Russia's capacity to wage its illegal aggression."
During the virtual meeting, Zelenskyy thanked the G-7 leaders for the support they have lent since the invasion began on Feb. 24 last year and said, "You and I can make this year, 2023, to be the year of the end of Russian aggression, the year of the return to peace, the year of the liberation of our land and our people from Russian captivity."
As President Vladimir Putin has recently claimed Moscow will suspend its participation in a nuclear weapons control treaty called New START, the G-7 leaders also discussed measures to prevent Russia from using atomic bombs against Ukraine.
"We deeply regret Russia's decision to suspend the implementation" of the pact with the United States, the statement said, adding that Moscow's "irresponsible nuclear rhetoric is unacceptable."
"Any use of chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons by Russia would be met with severe consequences," the G-7 said, emphasizing the "importance of the 77-year record of non-use of nuclear weapons" in the world.
The G-7 members confirmed their coordination to continue to meet the military and defense equipment needs of Ukraine.
For Japan's part, Kishida has promised Tokyo will provide $5.5 billion in additional financial assistance for the rebuilding of infrastructure in Ukraine that Russia has destroyed.
Japan has also agreed to work with Cambodia in supporting attempts to remove Russian landmines and unexploded bombs in Ukraine, while Tokyo has refrained from offering military aid to Kyiv under the war-renouncing Constitution.
For years, Japan has contributed to demining efforts in Cambodia, where millions of landmines are believed to have been laid during the 1970-1991 civil war.
The G-7 leaders held the online meeting amid growing concerns that China, Japan's neighbor, might supply weapons to Russia. Beijing and Moscow have been deepening their defense cooperation by carrying out joint military drills.
Kishida said at a press conference before Friday's summit that Japan will join hands with the international community, including the G-7, to "issue a clear message" to deter third nations from supporting Russia's war effort, without singling out China.
Earlier in the day, China called for a comprehensive ceasefire in Ukraine and expressed opposition to the unilateral sanctions on Moscow imposed by Western countries in a position paper repeating its past stances.
Kishida, a lawmaker representing a constituency in Hiroshima, is slated to host the face-to-face G-7 summit from May 19 in the western Japan city, devastated by a U.S. atomic bomb in August 1945.
Kishida said Friday that Japan has no intention to invite Russia to the Hiroshima summit, while Ukraine has suggested that Zelenskyy might visit the city if Japan asks him to attend the G-7 meeting.
Regarding whether he will make a trip to Ukraine for talks with Zelenskyy, Kishida said he is considering one if the right conditions are in place, but the timing of the travel and other details are currently undecided.
On Monday, U.S. President Joe Biden visited the Ukrainian capital Kyiv in a surprise move in the run-up to the first anniversary of Russia's war, making Kishida the only G-7 leader who has yet to travel to the Eastern European nation.
The G-7 groups Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States plus the European Union.
In New York, meanwhile, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said at a U.N. Security Council gathering Friday, "No country is allowed to rewrite borders by force or coercion," condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine "in the strongest possible terms."
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