Exclusive: G7 leaders target Russian energy and trade in new sanctions moves

WASHINGTON/BERLIN (Reuters) – Leaders of the Group of Seven nations plan to tighten sanctions against Russia at their summit in Japan this week, with steps targeting energy and exports to help Moscow’s war effort, line officials said. Knowledge of discussions.

People said the new measures announced by the leaders during the May 19-21 meetings will aim to evade sanctions involving third countries, seek to undermine Russia’s future energy production and curb trade that supports the Russian military.

Separately, US officials also expect G7 members to agree to adjust their approach to sanctions so that all exports are automatically blocked, at least for certain categories of goods, unless they are on a list of approved items.

The Biden administration previously pushed G7 allies to reverse the group’s sanctions approach, which today allows all goods to be sold to Russia unless explicitly blacklisted.

This change could make it more difficult for Moscow to find loopholes in the sanctions regime.

While the allies have not agreed to widely apply the more restrictive approach, U.S. officials expect that in areas most sensitive to Russia’s G7 military members they will adopt the assumption that exports are prohibited unless they are on a specific list.

The exact areas in which these new rules will apply are still under discussion.

“You should expect to see, in a few places, particularly in relation to Russia’s defense industrial base, that change in assumption,” said a US official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The exact language of the G7 leaders’ joint declarations is still subject to negotiation and modification before they are issued during the summit. The G7 includes the United States, Japan, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom.

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The G7 leaders’ move on Russia comes as Ukraine’s Western allies look for new ways to tighten already restrictive sanctions on Russia, from export controls to visa restrictions and a cap on oil prices, which has pressured Russian President Vladimir Putin but has not stopped full measures. . The invasion, which began more than a year ago.

Some US allies have resisted the idea of ‚Äč‚Äčlarge-scale trade bans and then issuing tier-by-tier waivers.

The European Union, for example, has its own approach and is also currently negotiating its 11th package of sanctions since Russia invaded Ukraine, with the bulk focusing on people and countries that circumvent existing trade restrictions.

“The sometimes discussed approach of ‘ban everything first and allow exceptions’ will not work from our point of view,” said a senior German government official. “We want to be very precise and we want to avoid unintended side effects.”

Meanwhile, a change in language, including language specifying that some trade is prohibited unless specifically exempted, by G7 leaders may not necessarily lead to more bans immediately or indeed to any change in position. Russia.

“At least on Day One, this change in assumption does not change the core of what is permissible, but it is important for the long-term trajectory of where we are going and constraining the system as a whole,” the US official said.

It is expected that Ukraine, backed by Western weapons and money, will launch major counterattack operations in the coming weeks to try to recover areas in its east and south from Russian forces.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was in Europe this week for meetings with Pope Francis as well as leaders from France, Italy and Germany. The officials said he is expected to address the G7 leaders, either virtually or in person, during their summit in Hiroshima.

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said last month that a G7 move to ban exports to the country would prompt Moscow to end a Black Sea grain deal allowing for the export of vital grains from Ukraine. Food security in the aftermath of the war is also expected to be a major topic at the G7.

(Reporting by Trevor Honeycutt in Washington and Andreas Reinke in Berlin) Editing by Chris Riess

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