ELMAU CASTLE, Germany: World powers on Sunday agreed to ban gold imports from Russia, at a G7 meeting designed to take fresh concerted action to deplete Moscow's war chest.
US President Joe Biden and his counterparts from the world's most industrialised nations are gathering at Elmau Castle in the Bavarian Alps, Germany, before they continue on to Madrid for talks with Nato partners.
They are seeking to close ranks for Ukraine against Russia's invasion while grappling with the intensifying global fallout of the war. "We have to stay together," Biden told German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the host of the three-day gathering.
Russian President Vladimir Putin had been hoping "that somehow Nato and the G7 would splinter", Biden said. "But we haven't and we're not going to." Scholz also hailed Western unity which he said "Putin never expected".
The statements of resolve came as Russia resumed strikes on central Kyiv in the first onslaught on the Ukrainian capital in three weeks -- an attack Biden condemned as "more of their barbarism".
Looking to the summit, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba urged the G7 to approve more sanctions on Moscow and more heavy weapons for Ukraine to defeat "Russia's sick imperialism".
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will make the same plea when he joins the meeting via video-link on Monday. From soaring inflation to a looming food crisis and energy shortages, Russia's invasion of Ukraine, now in its fifth month, has mired the world in a series of crises.
The G7 leaders are also confronting the looming threat of recession as well as pressures over climate change. Seeking to turn up the heat on Moscow, the G7 announced it would outlaw imports of Russian gold. The United States said gold was the second largest export for Russia and a significant source of revenue for Putin and his allies.
According to the White House, Russia accounted for about five percent of all world gold exports in 2020 and 90 percent of Russia's output went to G7 countries -- mostly to Britain.
While Western allies have hammered the Russian economy with unprecedented sanctions, Putin's armies have been digging in their heels for a drawn-out war. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron said they now saw an "opportunity to turn the tide" in Ukraine.
London announced another $525 million in guarantees for World Bank lending later this year. Johnson cautioned Macron that "any attempt to settle the conflict now will only cause enduring instability" and risked giving "Putin licence to manipulate both sovereign countries and international markets in perpetuity", a Downing Street spokesman said.
Seeking fresh measures to put the squeeze on Putin, Macron urged producers to cap oil prices to limit Russia profits from soaring energy revenues. Paris backs a US proposal for a maximum oil price, Macron's office said, but added that "it would be much more powerful if it came from the producing countries".
John Kirby, National Security Council spokesman at the White House, said the G7 would be seeking to increase the costs and consequences of the war on Putin and the Russian economy. At the same time, they will aim to minimise "as much as possible the effect of these rising oil prices and the way (Putin) has weaponised energy".
The fallout on the economy will be at the centre of the G7's opening session, with a post-pandemic recovery now threatening to lurch into recession.
Scarred by a reliance on Russian energy that has hampered several European nations including Germany and Italy from going all out to punish Russia, the G7 was also warily looking at China -- which it views as a systemic rival.
"The impact that China's coercive economic practices, use of forced labour, intellectual theft -- all those are front and centre for the G7, and I think you're going to see China very much at the forefront as the G7 goes on," said Kirby.
As the gulf separating Western allies from Russia and China widens, the G7 will also be looking to rally other major players to its side. To this end, Scholz has invited the leaders of Argentina, India, Indonesia, Senegal and South Africa to the Alpine summit.
While Argentina and Indonesia voted at a crucial UN vote to condemn Russia, the other three abstained. But all are being directly hit by a looming hunger crisis sparked by the holdup in grain and wheat exports from Ukraine, and India for instance has imposed restrictions on wheat exports.
Russia will supply Belarus with missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads after the president complained about nuclear-armed Nato flights coming close to the Belarusian border. President Vladimir Putin made the announcement as he received Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko in Moscow.
“In the coming months, we will transfer to Belarus Iskander-M tactical missile systems, which can use ballistic or cruise missiles, in their conventional and nuclear versions,” Putin said in a broadcast on Russian television at the start of his meeting with Lukashenko in St Petersburg.
At the meeting, Lukashenko expressed concern about the “aggressive”, “confrontational”, and “repulsive” policies of Belarus’s neighbours Lithuania and Poland. He asked Putin to help his country mount a “symmetrical response” to what he said were nuclear-armed flights by the US-led NATO alliance near Belarus’s borders.
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