The Group of 8 will not meet until Russia "changes course," the seven other member nations have announced in a joint statement. A summit scheduled by the group in Sochi has been moved to Brussels, with Moscow excluded.
Leaders of all member G8 nations - the United States, Japan, Germany, Italy, France, Canada and Britain - bar Russia met at The Hague in the Netherlands on Monday. Originally scheduled to center around nuclear security issues, talks are instead being dominated by Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and the possible sanctions it could now face from its fellow world powers.
"We remain ready to intensify actions including coordinated sectoral sanctions that will have an increasingly significant impact on the Russian economy if Russia continues to escalate this situation," a statement from the seven nations said, with a G7 summit now set for Brussels in June.
"... Under these circumstances, we will not participate in the planned Sochi summit. We will suspend our participation in the G8 until Russia changes course and the environment comes back to where the G8 is able to have a meaningful discussion."
"We stand firm in our support for the people of Ukraine who seek to restore unity, democracy, political stability, and economic prosperity to their country," it said.
Banishment from the group had been a prospect raised by US Secretary of State John Kerry before Monday's meeting began. That outcome was addressed by Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov after talks with Ukraine's interim counterpart Andriy Deshchytsya and Kerry on the sidelines of the meeting in The Hague.
"If our Western partners think that this format has outlived itself, then so be it. At the very least, we are not trying to hold on to this format, and we see no great tragedy if it [the G8] does not meet," he told reporters before the release of the G7 statement.
"The G8 is an informal club, there are no membership cards. Nobody can throw anybody out," he said, adding: "All important issues are now discussed in the G20."
Lavrov said Russia stood by its intervention in Crimea, which was annexed on Friday after the fall of Ukraine's pro-Kremlin regime in February. He said Crimea had a "right to self-determination," and that there was no "malicious intent" to Russia's actions. Instead, it was to "protect the Russians who have been living there for hundreds of years."
Xi, Obama meet
Before the G7 leaders had met, US President Barack Obama had spoken with China counterpart Xi Jinping. "China supports the constructive efforts made by the international community to ease tension, and holds an open attitude toward all plans that are helpful to promote a political solution," Xi said, according to China's Xinhua news agency. A regular ally of Russia, China elected to abstain from voting on a United Nations Security Council resolution declaring Crimea's secession referendum illegal.
Earlier on Monday, Russian troops seized control of the Ukraine's Feodosia naval base in Crimea. Russia has already claimed several other military bases, with Feodosia previously considered one of the final bastions of resistance.
Ukraine's acting president Oleksander Turchinov told the country's parliament on Monday that remaining troops would be withdrawn from Crimea due to the "threats" from Russia's military.
ph/hc (dpa, AFP, AP, Reuters)
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