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EU Council head urges tough line on Russia sanctions

Published:Sunday | June 7, 2015 | 11:03 AM
European Council President Donald Tusk speaks during a media conference at the G-7 summit at Schloss Elmau hotel near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, southern Germany, Sunday, June 7, 2015.

ELMAU, Germany (AP) -- World leaders at the Group of Seven summit should present a united front and uphold the sanctions imposed on Russia for its actions against Ukraine, a top European Union official urged Sunday.

European Union President Donald Tusk spoke ahead of the official opening of the G-7 summit, as thousands of German police patrolled a security perimeter around an exclusive Bavarian hotel and a few hundred protesters chanted anti-capitalist slogans.

Tusk said, since the Ukraine peace deal agreed in Minsk, Belarus, in February has not been fully implemented, the only question for the 28-nation EU is whether to make the sanctions against Russia even tougher.

"If anyone wants to start a debate about changing the sanctions regime, the discussion could only be about strengthening them," said Tusk, a former Polish prime minister.

The G-7 summit marks the second year in a row that leaders from the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Japan will assemble without Russian President Vladimir Putin. After Russia annexed the entire Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine last year, the world powers kicked Russia out of what had been called the Group of Eight, a move aimed at isolating Putin and signaling the West's united opposition to his actions.

Tusk spoke at a press conference with European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker. They are participating in the talks as representatives of the EU, while world figures, including U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and World Bank President Jim Kim, will take part in some of the G-7 discussions at the Schloss Elmau hotel.

Tusk said Russia's possible return to the group would depend on a turn-around in Moscow's foreign policy.

"This is a community of values. And this is why Russia is not among us here today and will not be invited as long as it behaves aggressively toward Ukraine and other countries," he said.

The U.S. and the European Union have imposed financial restrictions on Russian companies and individuals to pressure Russia into stopping its support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine. They and NATO say Russian troops and military equipment have been used on Ukrainian territory - something Russia denies.

Tusk said one role for the summit would be "to reconfirm the G-7 unity on the sanctions policy."

Protesters, meanwhile, blocked roads as the G-7 leaders arrived in the Bavarian Alps to begin their two-day summit. Journalists were flown by helicopter to the venue to avoid delays on the roads due to the protesters.

Several hundred demonstrators hiked early Sunday from the resort of Garmisch-Partenkirchen to get near the security perimeter around the Schloss Elmau hotel, the secluded summit venue 8 kilometers (5 miles) away.

Some 22,000 police from around Germany were brought in to keep the protesters away from the hotel.

At the security fence, about 200 protesters shouted slogans like "Freedom and peace, no more G-7!" and waving signs with slogans like "Politics for people, not markets." On the other side, about 100 police officers with dogs were patrolling the fence to keep the demonstrators out.

Two protesters broke away from the main group at the security fence in an attempt to sneak through the woods and breach the barrier, but they were quickly chased down and turned back by about a dozen police.

The annual summit has drawn repeated protests by those who believe the leaders' decisions favor banks and business interests over those of ordinary people. A planned trans-Atlantic free trade agreement is a major concern.

Tusk went out of his way to acknowledge the protests, saying that their presence demonstrated the democratic values that G-7 nations stand for.

"People can demonstrate and think what they want, can say what they want, and even look like they want," he said. "I'm sorry for this maybe-trivial truth, but from time to time it's important that someone says it so openly."