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G7 leaders say they will consider extra 'restrictive measures' against Russia

Leaders from the G7 group of industrialized nations have said they will consider further measures against Russia, if necessary, over the Ukraine crisis. Russian President Vladimir Putin had been excluded from the talks.

The leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) issued their joint statement on Wednesday evening, calling upon Russia to take concrete measures to calm the situation in Ukraine's east - or face the consequences.

"We stand ready to intensify targeted sanctions and to consider meaningful additional restrictive measures to impose further costs on Russia should events so require," said the statement.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told a news conference that the West would check "again and again" to see if progress had been made in calming the situation in eastern Ukraine.

"We cannot afford a further destabilization in Ukraine," she told the news conference, warning of possible "phase 3" sanctions against Russian industries such as banking and defense. "If we do not have progress in the questions we have to solve there is the possibility of sanctions, even heavy sanctions of phase 3 on the table."

Demand to cut supplies

The G7's demands include a stipulation that Russia cooperate with new Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and take action to halt the flow of weapons and separatists across the Russian border. Measures to secure gas supplies were also said to be included.

Leaders from the United States, Germany, France, Britain, Canada, Japan and Italy were present for the talks in Brussels. Putin's absence was particularly significant, as Russia technically holds the G8 Presidency in 2014.

The leaders voted in March to suspend Russia and rename the group from G8 to G7, in response to Russia's annexation of Crimea. The remaining member nations decided to move the two-day summit to Brussels. It had been scheduled to take place in the Russian resort town of Sochi.

In an address to the German parliament on Wednesday afternoon, Merkel said Russia's behavior in annexing Crimea had made the suspension "unavoidable."

D-Day anniversary meetings

Despite Russia's isolation by the G7, Putin is set to hold face-to-face meetings with Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Britain's David Cameron at a D-Day anniversary gathering in France later this week.

Ahead of the G7 talks, US President Barack Obama - currently touring Europe - met Ukraine's Poroshenko for talks in Warsaw, declaring him to be him a "wise choice" to lead Ukraine. Poroshenko, a chocolate-industry billionaire, said he would be willing to meet Putin for talks at the anniversary in Normandy, although no meeting has been set up.

In the Wednesday meeting, the G7 leaders also said they would join forces against the threat of radicalized foreign fighters returning from fighting in Syria. A recent deadly shooting at Belgium's Jewish Museum has been attributed to a suspect who trained with a jihadist group in Syria.

Ukraine was expected to dominate the second day of talks, with Europe's gas dependency and energy security likely to be big topics, as well as climate change and a proposed EU-US trade pact.

rc/jlw (dpa, AFP)

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