Washington: The leaders of the world’s top industrialised powers have turned on fellow G8 member Russia, condemning its ‘‘clear’’ violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty after the invasion of the Crimean Peninsula.
In a pointed statement referring to themselves as the G7 rather than the G8, the leaders said Russia’s actions were incompatible with the Group of Eight Nations, which Moscow joined in 1997, and said they would not take part in preparatory talks for June’s G8 summit in Sochi.
The statement was signed by the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the US and the presidents of the European Council and European Commission and released by the White House hours after US officials outlined moves to isolate Russia diplomatically and economically.
The leaders said they joined to ‘‘condemn the Russian Federation’s clear violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, in contravention of Russia’s obligations under the UN Charter and its 1997 basing agreement with Ukraine’’.
Earlier it was announced that US Secretary of State John Kerry would visit Kiev on Tuesday.
Senior White House officials confirmed on Sunday night that Russia now had ’’full operational control’’ of the Crimean region, with more than 6000 special forces and naval personnel in place, while Ukrainian forces remained in their bases and had not surrendered their weapons.
US officials said planned bilateral trade and military talks with Russia had already been cancelled. The US is considering asset freezes, travel visa bans and sanctions on Russian banks, the officials said.
Already the North Atlantic Council - the governing body of NATO - had met and condemned the invasion and an urgent meeting of the non-Russian signatories of the so-called Budapest Memorandum had been called.
Under this 1994 treaty, nations including the US, Britain, France and China agreed to guarantee Ukraine’s independence when it gave up the nuclear weapons stockpile it held after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Asked if the administration was concerned that Russia’s co-operation with the US over Syria and Iran were threatened, one of the officials said it was in Russia’s interest that Syria give up its chemical weapons and Iran continued to co-operate with the wider world. He said Russia had opposed sanctions against Syria over its concerns for Syria’s territorial integrity, ‘‘so you can see an extraordinary level of hypocrisy here’’.
One of the officials denied that Russia’s aggression and the US response demonstrated that Mr Obama was perceived globally as weak. Rather, he said, the loss of a pro-Russian leader in Ukraine suggested Mr Putin was acting from a position of weakness.
’’When you look at soft power, the power of attraction, Vladimir Putin has no game, so he is left with hard power,’’ said another.
Nicholas Burns, a former US ambassador to NATO and board member of leading Washington think tank the Atlantic Council, said the crisis was the most difficult of Mr Obama’s presidency.
He said the US had no military response and could only hope to outmanoeuvre Mr Putin politically and diplomatically.
He said some of Mr Putin’s claims that ethnic Russians had appealed for intervention were true and others were fabricated, but that Mr Putin knew the US would not go to war for Ukraine.
He said Mr Obama should travel with other world leaders to Kiev.
William Taylor, a former US ambassador to Ukraine, told MSNBC that Russia should be treated as an outlaw nation for its actions in the Crimea, just as South Africa and Iran had been in the past.