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G7 leaders work to ‘starve’ Russia of oil money as Zelensky says he wants the war over by the end of the year

<i>Stefan Rousseau/Pool/Getty Images</i><br/>From left
Getty Images
Stefan Rousseau/Pool/Getty Images
From left

By Kevin Liptak, CNN

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told G7 leaders during a virtual meeting Monday that he wants the war in Ukraine to end by the end of 2022, according to a source familiar with his remarks, as leaders worked to starve Russia of its oil revenues and mitigate the economic fallout of the conflict.

The dual missions — sustain support for Ukraine while easing economic pressures at home — have defined this year’s summit of leading democracies, held high in the Bavarian Alps. While largely united, the leaders are all facing their own political imperatives to see a momentum shift in the fighting and bring an end to the conflict quickly.

To that end, leaders were nearing an agreement to try capping the price of Russian oil, depriving the country of revenues that have soared amid the global spike in energy prices. Details were still being ironed out, including whether the top buyers of Russian oil would agree to the limits, but US officials sounded confident in the prospects of the plan.

As the war in Ukraine grinds ahead, the question of how to end the conflict has loomed over the talks here. Zelensky’s timeframe, delivered via video conference during a morning session at the Schloss Elmau castle, was as clear a sign as he has given about where he sees the trajectory of the war headed.

A top adviser to President Joe Biden said Zelensky was focused on regaining momentum in Ukraine over the coming months — and not years — when he spoke to leaders.

“Zelensky was very much focused on trying to ensure that Ukraine is in as advantageous a position on the battlefield as possible in the next months as opposed to the next years, because he believes that a grinding conflict is not in the interest of the Ukrainian people,” US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said after the meeting.

The Ukraine conflict has been at the center of the Group of 7 summit being held inside a century-old mountainside castle in Germany’s Bavaria region. Leaders have decided on new steps to isolate Russia’s economy, including a ban on new imports of Russian gold, and unveiled new sanctions on Monday.

In a joint statement after their meeting with Zelensky, the leaders pledged to continue supporting Ukraine “for as long as it takes.”

The United States is expected to announce as soon as this week it’s purchased a new advanced medium-to-long range missile defense system that Ukraine has been requesting, along with new shipments of ammunition and radar systems, as it works to turn the momentum in the war away from Russia, which has been making small gains in the East.

Ukraine had requested the system to help sustain its fight against Russia. In a brief glimpse of the leaders’ meeting with Zelensky, the Ukrainian President could be seen on a screen set up in the conference room as the leaders took their seats.

G7 leaders also plan to announce a lengthy set of new sanctions, including on Russian defense supply chains, Russians responsible for human rights abuses and war crimes, private military companies and new visa restrictions on 500 officials. The US will also announce $7.5 billion in new funding for Ukraine, part of a broader commitment from G7 nations to help the country make up its budgetary shortfalls.

“Here at this meeting of the G7, as well as at NATO, we will continue to do, collectively, everything we can to make sure that the Ukrainians have what they need in their hands to repel the Russian aggression,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in an exclusive interview with CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.

There are other important topics on the agenda, including a new effort to counter China’s infrastructure investments in the developing world that have extended Beijing’s influence across the globe.

But how much longer the Western front can remain united against Russia is the question looming over these talks. The rising cost of energy, fears of global food shortages and the certain inevitability that war fatigue will set in have lent urgency to the discussions about where the conflict goes next.

Meeting his host, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, on Sunday, Biden sought to underscore the importance of sticking together.

“Putin has been counting on, from the beginning, that somehow NATO and the G7 would splinter,” he said. “But we haven’t, and we’re not going to.”

Zelensky, who is also planning to address this week’s NATO summit in Madrid, has pressed the West for accelerated sanctions on Moscow and heavy artillery to beat back the Russian invaders.

His entreaties will become more urgent following Sunday’s missile hits on two residential buildings in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital that had enjoyed relative calm in recent weeks as the fighting moved eastward. Biden condemned the attack as “barbarism.”

Yet how much further leaders will be willing to go in applying new sanctions on Russia remains to be seen. High oil prices mean Russia is making more revenue from its energy exports, despite bans in Europe and the United States.

Western leaders gathering at the G7 have decided to try capping the price of Russian oil, officials say, the latest step toward punishing Moscow while attempting to mitigate the economic effects of the war in Ukraine. How, when and by how much the price of Russian oil will be capped remains to be seen. Officials said the precise mechanism for accomplishing the cap was still being worked out.

How, when and by how much the price of Russian oil will be capped remains to be seen. Officials said the precise mechanism for accomplishing the cap was still being worked out.

But leaders will instruct their teams to work urgently toward finding a way to limit the price at which Russia can sell its oil, depriving Moscow of a key revenue source.

“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,” said a senior US administration official.

As oil prices have skyrocketed, Russia’s oil revenues are actually up, despite global import bans. Leaders want to use their collective leverage to cut the revenue Russia receives from the countries still purchasing its oil.

How, exactly, that is done remains to be seen, though the official suggested the G7 nations have leverage through oil transportation networks that could help toward applying the cap.

High gas prices for US and European consumers are putting pressure on leaders to find ways to ease the pain.

Speaking to CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” hours after the Russian missiles hit Kyiv, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged Americans, Britons and others in the West to maintain resolve in punishing Moscow, despite the effect the war has had on global oil prices.

“I would just say to people in the United States that this is something that America historically does and has to do, and that is to step up for peace and freedom and democracy,” Johnson said. “And if we let Putin get away with it, and just annex, conquer sizable parts of a free, independent, sovereign country, which is what he is poised to do … then the consequences for the world are absolutely catastrophic.”

Putin, whose country was ejected from the then-G8 in 2014 after Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian territory of Crimea, was the subject of light mockery as leaders sat down to a working lunch Sunday.

Johnson, the last leader to arrive to the round meeting table, asked whether he should keep his suit jacket on.

“Jackets on?” he asked, before joking about how the leaders had to look tough during their talks.

“We have to show that we’re tougher than Putin,” he said.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a suggestion: “Barechested horseback ride,” he said, as the leaders chuckled.

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