G7 leaders condemn Russia’s ‘clear violation’ of Ukrainian sovereignty

WASHINGTON, March 3 (PNA/Xinhua) — Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) industrialized nations on Sunday denounced what they called Russia’s “clear violation” of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity.

In a joint statement released by the White House, the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, along with the presidents of the European Council and the European Commission, also announced their suspension of preparations for the upcoming Group of Eight (G8) summit in the Russian resort city of Sochi.

They urged Russia to address any ongoing security or human-rights concerns it has with Ukraine through “direct negotiations, and/or via international observation or mediation under the auspices of the UN or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.”

“We stand ready to assist with these efforts,” they said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin told U.S. President Barack Obama over phone on Saturday that Russia retains the right to protect its interests and Russian speakers living in Ukraine if violence spreads in eastern Ukrainian regions and Crimea, an autonomous republic of Ukraine now at the center of the country’s ongoing crisis.

A senior U.S. official told reporters via teleconference on Sunday that the Russian forces were now “in complete operational control of the Crimean peninsula,” where armed personnel had taken over airports and parliament and government buildings.

Another senior U.S. official said Russia has moved 6,000 airborne and ground troops into the Crimean peninsula, where Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is based.

“We also call on all parties concerned to behave with the greatest extent of self-restraint and responsibility, and to decrease the tensions,” the G7 leaders said.

Alleging that Russia’s actions in Ukraine contravene the “principles and values” guiding the G7 and G8, the leaders announced their decision to suspend preparations for the scheduled G8 summit in Sochi in June.

“We are united in supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and its right to choose its own future,” they said, adding that “We commit ourselves to support Ukraine in its efforts to restore unity, stability, and political and economic health to the country.”

In a recent conversation with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Putin said Russia could not stay aside if violent actions were taken against Russian-speakers in eastern Ukrainian regions and Crimea.

Russia would take necessary measures according to international law, Putin added. But both sides agreed that further escalation of the crisis in Ukraine should be averted. (PNA/Xinhua)