Zelenskyy joins G-7 summit as U.S. plans to send Ukraine new missile defense system
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TELFS, Austria — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was meeting virtually with world leaders at the Group of Seven summit in Germany on Monday as the United States readies new efforts to aid Kyiv’s defense against Russia.

A senior administration official at the G-7 said the U.S is planning to provide a medium-to-long range surface to air missile system for Ukraine, which would up its capabilities to combat Russian strikes from further distance.

The U.S. and G-7 are also planning to announce expanded sanctions targeting Russian defense capabilities aimed at preventing Russia from replenishing the weapons it is using against Ukraine, said a second senior administration official.

Zelenskyy has been pleading with the G-7 leaders to speed the support they have pledged, increase the weaponry they are supplying and cut off Russian energy imports. His remarks to the group come as Ukrainian forces struggle to hang on to the key eastern region of Luhansk.

Hours before the summit began on Sunday, Russian missiles struck a residential building in Kyiv.

While the heads of state intend to show a united front at the summit, diverging views have started to emerge among European leaders in recent months over whether or not Ukraine should cede some territory to Russia to end the war, which has led to a surge in energy prices and global food shortages. Biden emphasized the need for unity in his remarks at the start of the summit Sunday. 

“We have to stay together,” Biden said ahead of a meeting with Germany Chancellor Olaf Scholz, adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin was “counting on from the beginning that NATO and the G-7 would splinter. But we haven’t, and we’re not going to.”

Germany, which has continued to import Russian gas and only recently began sending heavy artillery to Ukraine, has been among the countries Zelenskyy has criticized for not providing more support.

The U.S. also announced Monday that it will seek to increase the tariff rate of more than 570 groups of Russian products worth approximately $2.3 billion, said the second senior administration official said. The proceeds from those tariffs would go directly to assisting Ukraine.

The leaders will also continue discussing a price cap on Russian oil exports that could cut into the Kremlin’s energy revenue and the leaders are expected to direct officials in their countries to work to develop mechanisms to set a global price cap for Russian oil, the second official said.

“The goal here is to starve Russia, starve Putin of his main source of cash and force down the price of Russian oil to help blunt the impact of Putin’s war at the pump,” the official said.

Ahead of his trip, President Joe Biden authorized another $450 million in weaponry to be sent to Ukraine, bringing the total U.S. commitment to $6.1 billion since the start of the war. The latest round of equipment includes four high-mobility artillery rocket systems, 36,000 rounds of ammunition, 18 tactical vehicles, 1,200 grenade launchers, 2,000 machine guns, 18 coastal and riverine patrol boats, spare parts and other equipment, according to the Defense Department. 

The leaders agreed to ban imports of Russian gold, a person familiar with the matter said on Sunday, which is the second largest export for Russia after energy and a source of significant revenue.

The leaders of France, Germany and Italy offered a show of unity for Zelenskyy last month when they made a joint visit to Kyiv and vowed to back Ukraine’s candidacy to join the European Union.  

Zelenskyy is also scheduled to speak virtually to the NATO summit in Madrid later this week where leaders plan to announce new force posture commitments to strengthen the alliance’s defense and deter Russia from invading NATO member countries.

Last week Ukrainian forces were forced to retreat from the key eastern city of Sievierodonetsk after weeks of bombardment and battles with invading Russian forces, a local official said Friday, leaving the city of Lysychansk as the only barrier between Russia taking full control of half of Ukraine’s industrial heartland.

Biden has said he doesn’t plan to travel to Ukraine during his swing through Europe this week, making him one of the few G-7 leaders yet to visit the country.

The president said that whether or not he traveled there would depend on “a lot of things relating to whether or not it causes more difficulty for the Ukrainians, whether it distracts from what’s going on.”

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