G7 Summit snubs Russia over Ukraine
The world's leading industrialised nations will meet without Russia for the first time in 17 years.
BRUSSELS - The world's leading industrialised nations are scheduled to meet without Russia for the first time in 17 years on Wednesday, leaving President Vladimir Putin out of the talks in retaliation for his seizure of Crimea and Russia's part in destabilising eastern Ukraine.
The two-day Group of Seven summit, taking place in Brussels rather than the previously planned Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi, will cover foreign policy, economics, trade and energy security.
The latter is an issue of particularly high sensitivity to Europe after months of tension with Moscow, which supplies nearly a third of Europe's oil and gas.
While it is the first time Russia will not be at the table since joining the club in 1997, Putin will still hold one-on-one talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Britain's David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande this week, on the sidelines of the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
The decision to drop Russia from the group was taken by its other members - the United States, Germany, France, Britain, Canada, Japan and Italy - in March after Moscow seized Crimea and annexed it, a move not recognised internationally.
Since then, the EU and the US have imposed travel bans and asset freezes on senior Russian and Crimean officials and threatened to apply much harder-hitting economic and trade measures if Moscow is deemed to have further destabilised eastern Ukraine.
While Russia retains substantial forces on Ukraine's eastern border, and pro-Russia militias are operating in many towns, presidential elections took place relatively peacefully across the whole of Ukraine last month, which the West took as a signal of Moscow's readiness not to escalate the crisis.
That sense of increased cooperation has raised questions about whether the European Union, with its critical trade and energy ties with Russia, could soon seek ways of drawing Moscow back into the fold, such as allowing it to rejoin the G8.
Officials responsible for coordinating this week's summit did not rule that out on Tuesday, but said Moscow had a long way to go to prove its intentions were sound and that it was capable of acting like a "normal democratic country".
Russia denies that it is behind the revolt in eastern Ukraine. It also asserts the right to protect Russian-speakers in the region.