TELFS, Austria — World leaders at the Group of Seven summit in Germany on Monday vowed to support Ukraine “for as long as it takes” after meeting virtually with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, as the United States and its allies readied new efforts to aid Kyiv’s defense against Russia.
Washington was preparing to send new military assistance while President Joe Biden and the leaders of the other major global economies sought to illustrate their long-term commitment to Ukraine’s cause by finalizing plans to pursue a price cap on Russian oil, impose new sanctions on the Kremlin and raise tariffs on Russian goods.
The U.S. is planning to provide a medium- to long-range surface-to-air missile system for Ukraine that would increase its capabilities to combat Russian strikes from a further distance along with other security assistance, including additional artillery ammunition and counter-battery radars, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a briefing with reporters. The U.S. will likely announce the purchase of the system this week along with the other equipment, an administration official familiar with the plans said.
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 in the face of Russian forces' advance.
Hours before the summit began Sunday, Russian missiles struck a residential building in Kyiv.
During the meeting, Sullivan said Zelenskyy told the G-7 that he wanted “additional air defense capabilities that could shoot down missiles out of the sky” and that he believes the next few months will be crucial.
“He believes that a grinding conflict is not in the interest of the Ukrainian people for obvious reasons," Sullivan said. "So he would like to see his military and those in the West who are supporting his military and making maximum use of the next few months to put Ukraine in as good a position as they can possibly be in.”
Following the meeting with Zelenskyy, the G-7 leaders put out a joint statement of support for Ukraine saying they will continue to provide defense and humanitarian assistance to the country and push to hold Russia accountable for its invasion.
"We will continue to provide financial, humanitarian, military and diplomatic support and stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes," the statement said. "As we do so, we commit to demonstrate global responsibility and solidarity through working to address the international impacts of Russia’s aggression, especially on the most vulnerable."
While the heads of state intended 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. In the statement Monday, the group said it will be up to Ukraine to determine how to resolve the conflict.
"It is up to Ukraine to decide on a future peace settlement, free from external pressure or influence," the group said.
“Ukraine feels the support of the G-7 states. Thank you for your defense and financial assistance to our country in the fight against the Russian invasion,” Zelenskyy said in a statement posted by his office after his video address. “For us, the consistent position of the G-7 countries on sanctions is also important. They should continue to increase, in particular by limiting the price of oil exported by the aggressor.”
One key move being discussed is the price cap on Russian oil exports.
The leaders will continue discussing that step, which could cut into the Kremlin’s energy revenue, and they are expected to direct officials in their countries to work to develop mechanisms to set a global price cap, a senior administration official said in a briefing with reporters.
“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.
But Sullivan said it is taking time for the countries to develop a financial mechanism to impose the price caps as Russia continues to sell millions of barrels of oil a day. If an agreement is reached it will be a “one of the more significant outcomes of the G-7 summit."
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, the senior administration official said. The proceeds from those tariffs would go directly to assisting Ukraine.
The G-7 leaders also plan to announce expanded sanctions targeting Russian defense capabilities aimed at preventing Moscow from replenishing the weapons it is using against Ukraine, the official said. The leaders already agreed to ban imports of Russian gold, a person familiar with the matter said Sunday, which is the second largest export for Russia after energy and a source of significant revenue.
There are some signs the pressure from the U.S. and its allies is starting to take a toll on Moscow's finances, with the country defaulting on foreign debt Sunday for the first time in more than a century after its attempts to pay in its ruble currency were blocked by international sanctions.
Ahead of his trip, 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.
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.
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. 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.”
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 to Russia taking full control of half of Ukraine’s industrial heartland.