WANGELS, Germany (AFP, REUTERS) – Leading democracies on Friday (May 13) pledged unwavering support for Ukraine in its war with Russia while the European Union promised to hike military support for Kyiv by more than half a billion dollars.
Foreign ministers of the Group of Seven (G-7) met on the second day of a three-day meeting in the German resort of Wangels, joined by their counterparts from Ukraine and Moldova.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the G-7 were “very strongly united” in their will to “continue in the long term to support Ukraine’s fight for its sovereignty until Ukraine’s victory”.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc was pledging an extra 500 million euros (US$520 million) in military aid.
The cash will raise the EU’s total military aid for Ukraine to two billion euros, he said.
“The recipe is clear – more of the same,” Mr Borrell said.
“More pressure on Russia, with economic sanctions. Continue working on international isolation of Russia. Countering the disinformation about the consequences of the war... And presenting a united front to continue supporting Ukraine.” British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss also called for further support for Ukraine.
“It is very important at this time that we keep up the pressure on Vladimir Putin by supplying more weapons to Ukraine, by increasing the sanctions,” she said.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba praised the G7 nations’ resolve to help Kyiv but also urged them to go further.
“Today I asked G7 countries to adopt legislation and put in place all necessary procedures needed to seize Russian sovereign assets and give them to Ukraine to use this money to rebuild our country,” he said.
Mr Kuleba also urged the EU to ensure that an embargo is placed on Russian oil, warning that an omission of the ban on the bloc’s next package would mean its unity was “broken”.
The war in Ukraine had led to greater unity among Western allies, Mr Kuleba said.
“It is Ukraine who made the G-7 strong again. It is our struggle that brought back confidence in the G-7 to lead, to shape international affairs and to counter attempts of authoritarian regimes to defeat democracy,” he said.
Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu also praised the EU’s role in the crisis and thanked the G7 for their support in helping his country deal with the fallout from the war, including a huge influx of refugees.
“We see that the best way to move forward and to keep peace in our part of the world is to continue with European integration,” he said.
Separately in the southwestern German city of Stuttgart, agriculture ministers of the G7 as well as their Ukrainian counterpart gathered on Friday to discuss how to head off a looming international food crisis sparked by the war.
Accusing Russia of theft from Ukrainian farmers, German Agriculture Minister Cem Oezdemir said this was “an especially repugnant form of war that Russia is leading, in that it is stealing, robbing, taking for itself grain from eastern Ukraine.” Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 but Ukrainian forces managed to push Moscow’s forces back from Kyiv, and the conflict is now well into its third month.
Western countries have supplied Ukraine with weapons, including artillery, anti-aircraft missiles, anti-tank weapons and other powerful material, but Kyiv has been pushing allies for more support.
Mr Le Drian pointed to the global effects of what he called a “lasting conflict... particularly in the area of food security”.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock had also on Thursday highlighted the growing impact of the war on poorer countries.
“We as the strongest industrialised democracies have a special responsibility” to help poorer nations weather the food and energy squeezes caused by the war, she said.
Ahead of the meeting, Ms Baerbock had said the group would defy Russian attempts to split the world over Ukraine.
"Never since the end of the Cold War have we G-7 partners been more profoundly challenged. Never before have we stood more united," she said in a tweet.
The war in Ukraine has sent global prices for grains, cooking oils, fuel and fertiliser soaring, with United Nations agencies warning that the price hikes will worsen a food crisis in Africa in particular.
Russia's invasion has disrupted shipping in the Black Sea, a major route for grains and other commodities, throttling exports.
"There are 25 million tonnes of grain currently blocked in the Ukrainian port of Odesa, which means food for millions of people in the world that is urgently needed, above all in African countries and in the Middle East," Ms Baerbock told reporters.
Mr Le Drian had said it was crucial for the G7 to show that Moscow was the root cause of the global food insecurity.
"We will continue our support efforts ... but I would add that we need to deal with a conflict that will last and the long-term consequences on food security. We need to show that Russia's aggression against Ukraine is provoking the global food crisis."
Diplomatic sources said the aim was for the seven countries to organise themselves better to find quick and efficient answers to the food crisis.
While US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will not make the meeting due to catching Covid-19, the remaining ministers will aim to reassure Moldova.
It is struggling to cope with the refugee flow from neighbouring Ukraine, and incidents involving pro-Russian separatists in the Transdniestria breakaway region have raised international alarm that the war could spread over the frontier.
"The country has been weakened because of the war... so we need to confirm our support for Moldova," a French diplomatic source told reporters.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, whose country currently holds the presidency of the Group of 20 Industrialised and Emerging Economies (G20), which also includes Russia, will also join the meeting on Friday to discuss food security.
A French official said the question of Russia's presence at the heads of state meeting in November would be brought up.