SLAVYANSK, Apr 26 – The Group of Seven rich countries agreed Saturday to impose new sanctions on Russia over the crisis in Ukraine, after Kiev accused Moscow of seeking to trigger a “third world war”.
The G7 nations, in a joint statement, said they would “move swiftly to impose additional sanctions on Russia,” with an informed source saying the new US sanctions could come as early as Monday.
The G7 statement praised the “restraint” with which the new government in Kiev had acted in dealing with the pro-Russian gunmen who have seized official buildings in the east of Ukraine.
US Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, speaking on Saturday to reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Malaysia with President Barack Obama, said sanctions could target “individuals with influence on the Russian economy, such as energy and banking.”
“When you start to get at the cronies, the individuals who frankly control large parts of the Russia economy, and some of the entities under their control, you are imposing a significant economic impact beyond strictly sanctioning an individual,” he said.
He did not give a date when the sanctions would be imposed, but said it would not happen over the weekend.
“I would expect targeted sanctions would be imposed with urgency” and could come “early next week.”
Earlier German Chancellor Angela Merkel said EU foreign ministers would meet soon to discuss the issue after speaking by conference call with Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
The G7 also includes Canada and Japan.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian authorities ratcheted up military operations against pro-Russian rebels in the east and their Cold War-style rhetoric.
The world hasn’t forgotten the Second World War and Russia wants to start a third world war,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said.
“Russia’s support for the terrorists in Ukraine constitutes an international crime and we call on the international community to unite against the Russian aggression.”
A Western diplomat voiced concern of a possible Russian move into eastern Ukraine in the coming days, maybe even over the weekend.
“We no longer exclude a Russian military intervention in Ukraine in the coming days,” the diplomatic source said, noting that Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin “has been recalled urgently to Moscow” for consultations.
Tensions were further heightened on the ground as the Ukrainian military launched a new offensive to besiege the rebel-held city of Slavyansk and insurgents blew up an army helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade.
At the entrance to Slavyansk, several members of an OSCE observer mission were detained and taken to the rebel-held security services building, sparking immediate international condemnation.