The Group of Seven (G7) advanced democracies has wrapped up its first in-person meeting in more than two years with a pledge to bolster collective efforts to counter Russia's "irresponsible and destabilizing" behavior, but offered little concrete action aside from expressing support for Ukraine.
"We are deeply concerned that the negative pattern of Russia's irresponsible and destabilizing behavior continues," the top diplomats of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States said in a joint statement on May 5 following talks in London.
The ministers cited "the large buildup of Russian military forces on Ukraine's borders and in illegally annexed Crimea, its malign activities aimed at undermining other countries' democratic systems, its malicious cyberactivity, and use of disinformation."
"We nevertheless will continue to bolster our collective capabilities and those of our partners to address and deter Russian behavior that is threatening the rules-based international order, including in the areas of cyberspace security and disinformation," the statement said.
The G7 meeting set the tone for next month's summit of the group's leaders in Cornwall, England.
It came amid heightened tensions between Russia and the West over issues including Russia's military threats to Ukraine, alleged meddling in elections in the United States and other democracies, alleged state-backed hacking, and the poisoning and jailing of Kremlin foe Aleksei Navalny.
Russia's recent military buildup near the Ukrainian border and in Crimea, seized by Moscow in March 2014, has raised concerns about a major escalation of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, where fighting between government forces and Moscow-backed separatists has killed more than 13,000 people since April 2014.
The Russian military said last week that most of its troops had returned to their permanent bases.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was flying to Kviv after the G7 meeting to “underscore unwavering U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression” and to “encourage progress on Ukraine’s reform agenda,” according to the State Department.
In their statement, the G7 ministers said they were "deeply concerned about the deteriorating human rights situation in Russia, and the systematic crackdown on opposition voices, human rights defenders, independent civil society, and media."
On Belarus, they raised their concerns about "the political and human rights crisis following the fraudulent" August 2020 presidential election, and called on the authorities to "hold new, free, and fair elections conducted under international observation."
Condemning Iran’s support to “proxy forces and non-state armed actors,” the G7 ministers called on Tehran to “refrain from destabilising actions, and play a constructive role in fostering regional stability and peace.”
They also called on Tehran to release foreign and dual nationals they said were being held arbitrarily in Iranian prisons.
The statement also criticized China for "arbitrary, coercive economic policies and practices" and urged it to stick to international trade rules and "respect human rights and fundamental freedoms," in particular among ethnic and religious minority groups such as mostly Muslim ethnic Uyghurs in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.