G-7 countries call on Kremlin to de-escalate, warn of costly sanctions if Russia invades Ukraine

Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven countries on Saturday urged Russia to de-escalate tensions along the border with Ukraine warning of “massive consequences” from sanctions in the event of “further military aggression.”

The group said they remain “gravely concerned about Russia’s threatening build-up around Ukraine,” and said they have seen “no evidence” of a troop drawdown despite the Kremlin’s assurances.

Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified massing of military forces, the largest deployment on the European continent since the end of the Cold War is a challenge to global security and the international order,” the foreign ministers said.

The group welcomed Russia’s willingness to engage diplomatically but said they are prepared to impose severe sanctions should the Kremlin further escalate militarily.

“While we are ready to explore diplomatic solutions to address legitimate security concerns, Russia should be in no doubt that any further military aggression against Ukraine will have massive consequences, including financial and economic sanctions on a wide array of sectoral and individual targets that would impose severe and unprecedented costs on the Russian economy,” the group wrote.

Tensions in Eastern Europe have reached a tipping point amid Russia’s troop buildup along Ukraine’s border.

Russia has amassed nearly 150,000 troops along Ukraine’s border, sparking fears among Western leaders that Russian President Vladimir Putin intends to invade.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied that Russia intends to invade neighboring Ukraine and has claimed it has begun removing troops from the border.

But the U.S. says there has been no evidence that Russia intends to deescalate and has warned that the window for further diplomacy is narrowing.

President Biden said Friday that he is “convinced” that Mr. Putin has made the decision to invade and said an assault on Kyiv may be imminent.

Western leaders have warned that Moscow might use skirmishes in Ukraine’s war-torn regions near the Russian border as a pretext for a full-scale invasion.

Ukrainian forces have been engaged in a nearly eight-year standoff with pro-Russian separatists. Violence between the two groups has escalated in recent days amid a Russian troop buildup along its border with Ukraine.

The White House has committed to avoiding a direct clash between U.S. and Russian troops, though President Biden has committed to bolstering U.S. support to NATO.

The White House has also warned of severe sanctions in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking at the annual Munich Security Conference earlier Saturday Vice President Kamala Harris voiced stark warnings for the Kremlin.

“Let me be clear, I can say with absolute certainty: If Russia further invades Ukraine, the United States, together with our allies and partners, will impose significant and unprecedented economic costs,” Harris said.

In a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy later Saturday, Ms. Harris called the current standoff “a decisive moment in our world’s history” and reiterated the Biden administration’s pledge to impose “swift and severe economic sanctions” in the event of an invasion.

“Any threats to your country, we take seriously, and we have rallied our Allies and our partners to speak with one voice,” Ms. Harris said.

The statement from the foreign ministers echoed Western leaders’ solidarity with Ukraine.

“We reiterate our unwavering commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders and territorial waters,” the group said. “We reaffirm the right of any sovereign state to determine its future and security arrangements. We commend Ukraine’s posture of restraint in the face of continued provocations and efforts at destabilization.”

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