G7 'to intensify Russia sanctions'

Pro-Russian supporters standing at the Komvikorm factory checkpoint, near Svyatogorsk town close to Slaviansk. Photo: EPA/BGNES

The G7 group of economic powers has agreed to intensify sanctions on Russia over its actions in Ukraine.

A G7 statement gave no detail of the sanctions, but US officials said they could announce measures by Monday, reports BBC.

Meanwhile, negotiators are trying to secure the release of international observers seized by pro-Russia gunmen.

Forces in the city of Slaviansk are still holding the eight European military observers and several Ukrainian army personnel who they seized on Friday and accuse of espionage.

The observers were taking part in a mission linked to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Meanwhile, the G7 praised Ukraine for acting with restraint in dealing with the "armed bands" that had occupied government buildings. 

But the group, which includes the US, UK, Germany, Japan, France, Canada and Italy, condemned Russia's "increasingly concerning rhetoric and ongoing threatening military manoeuvres". 

"Given the urgency of securing the opportunity for a successful and peaceful democratic vote next month in Ukraine's presidential elections, we have committed to act urgently to intensify targeted sanctions and measures to increase the costs of Russia's actions," said the statement.

White House sources told reporters that sanctions could be in place as early as Monday.

It is unclear what form they will take. Under current US and EU measures, assets freezes and travel bans have targeted a number of Russian officials.

Continue reading on: