Live updates | G-7 nations seek to counter Chinese influence

ELMAU, Germany (AP) — The Latest on the G-7 summit, the annual meeting of the leading democratic economies, which this year is being held in Germany’s Bavarian Alps:

One Group of Seven family photo didn’t seem to be enough.

After posing for a group shot earlier Sunday, the leaders of the U.S., Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, along with the leaders of the European Commission and the European Council, gripped and grinned for a second time at a wooden bench that has a special place in G-7 lore.

It’s where photographers captured then-German Chancellor Angela Merkel and then-U.S. President Barack Obama having a conversation when Merkel hosted the annual G-7 summit at the secluded luxury hotel where the group is meeting this week.

The 2015 photo showed Merkel gesturing with outstretched arms toward a seated Obama.

Sunday’s photo wasn’t as dramatic. It shows the leaders, with open collars for the men, standing in front of the bench, some with their arms around each other’s shoulders.

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KEY DEVELOPMENTS:

— U.S. President Joe Biden urges Western unity on Ukraine

— Why Germany is pushing for a ‘ climate club

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OTHER DEVELOPMENTS:

The Group of Seven leading democratic economies has formally launched at its annual summit a global infrastructure and investment partnership aimed at pushing back China’s influence in the developing world.

The G-7 program responds to China’s so-called Belt and Road Initiative, which Western officials have long argued traps receiving countries in debt and with investments that benefit China more than their hosts.

The White House says the initiative seeks to leverage $200 billion in U.S. investment over the next five years, along with a similar amount from G-7 allies, to boost infrastructure development in lower- and middle-income nations.

It adds that most of the funding will come from the private sector, sovereign wealth and global development funds, rather that direct taxpayer dollars.

The U.S. says the G-7 backed effort promotes responsible investments that aim to benefit the communities they are made in.

Among the first initiatives are a $2 billion solar farm investment in Angola in Southwest AFrica, $320 million for hospital construction in Ivory Coast, in West Africa, and $40 million to promote regional energy trade in Southeast Asia.

In a jab at China, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the G-7 is offering “sustainable, quality infrastructure” and will be “listening closely to the recipient countries.”

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says Western sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine are having “a profound impact.”

He said in an interview with CNN at the G-7 summit in Germany on Sunday that “even as (Russia) gets oil revenues with higher prices it’s unable to spend them because of the export controls.”

He said: Russia “can’t acquire what it needs to modernize its defense sector, to modernize its technology, to modernize its energy exploration, which means that over time each of these areas is going to go in decline.”

He referred to forecasts that reckon the Russian economy will shrink by up to 15% next year.

He added that the G-7 and NATO “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.’’

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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said the Group of Seven leading democratic economies faces challenges of a similar magnitude to those the world faced when the group was founded in the 1970s.

The G-7 emerged amid an energy crisis and severe economic downturn in the mid-1970s. Then-West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, who belonged to Scholz’s center-left party, was a prime mover behind the group’s formation.

Scholz said after hosting the opening session of this year’s summit in the German Alps that “we know something needs to be done” on the energy crisis and inflation.

He noted that “this was a point of departure for this gathering; when Helmut Schmidt worked to bring together the precursor of this meeting … it was about challenges of a similar dimension.”

Scholz said that shows that “only one thing helps in international relations: good partnerships, close cooperation and that we actually speak to each other.”

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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says attacks by Russia on residential buildings in Kyiv show the importance of international unity in supporting Ukraine.

Russia attacked the Ukrainian capital early Sunday, striking at least two residential buildings. Associated Press journalists in the city saw rescue services battling flames and rescuing civilians

Scholz emphasized the unity so far of the Group of Seven industrial powers, the European Union and NATO in organizing support for Ukraine.

He said Sunday after hosting the first session of the G-7 summit: “We can say for sure that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin did not reckon with this and it is still giving him a headache — the great international support for Ukraine but of course also the Ukrainians’ courage and bravery in defending their own country.”

He added: “That this is a brutal war that Putin is waging, we have now once again seen with rocket attacks on houses in Kyiv — that shows it is right that we stand together and support Ukrainians to defend their country, their democracy, their freedom of self-determination.”

Scholz said that he and U.S. President Joe Biden were of one mind about what needs to be done.

Scholz, who has faced criticism at home and abroad for perceived reluctance to send Ukraine heavy weapons, said that “Germany and the U.S. will always act together when it comes to questions of Ukraine’s security.”

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Leaders at the Group of Seven summit in Germany have joked about what would make them look tougher than Russian President Vladimir Putin.

As the G-7 leaders sat down for the opening session of the summit on Sunday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson could be heard asking whether he should keep his jacket on.

Johnson then said: “We all have to show that we’re tougher than Putin.” And Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau added: “A bare-chested horseback ride.”

Russia’s president has over the years relished appearing with animals in stage-managed media events. Putin has ridden a horse bare-chested, petted a polar bear, flown a motorized hang glider with cranes and shot a tiger with a tranquilizer gun to tag it with a GPS collar.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its consequences are a focus of this year’s G-7 summit.

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GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany — Activists dressed as leaders of the Group of Seven countries have staged a protest in a town square in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, near the G-7 summit venue.

Wearing traditional Bavarian garb and oversized heads resembling those of U.S. President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and other leaders, the activists pretended to ‘roast’ a planet Earth over a grill Sunday as the summit began.

“We are expecting a clear signal that they are going to fulfill their commitments of the Paris agreement and make clear improvements when it comes to climate protection,” said Charlotte Becker of the campaign group Oxfam.

The NGO also demands a tax on excess profits earned during the coronavirus pandemic that it says would generate hundreds of billions of dollars. The money should be used to fight poverty and hunger worldwide, it said.

Police have deployed thousands of officers around the summit venue in the Bavarian village of Elmau, in nearby Garmisch-Partenkirchen and in Munich.

A police spokeswoman, Carolin Englert, told German news agency dpa that so far the protests had been peaceful.

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GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany — Organizers of a planned rally against the G-7 summit in Elmau, Germany, say they are taking legal action to overturn restrictions that limit their right to peaceful protest.

German news agency dpa reported Sunday that the group, called Stop G-7 Elmau, has been told it can stage a protest Monday with up to 50 registered participants, who will be escorted through the high-security cordon to a site 500 meters (about 550 yards) from the venue.

Dpa quoted protest organizer Franz Haslbeck saying the location of the protest doesn’t conform with a court ruling issued in connection with the last G-7 at Elmau in 2015 that stipulated protesters must be allowed within “eye- and earshot” of the venue.

A series of larger rallies by left-wing groups is due to take place Monday much farther from where the G-7 leaders are meeting.

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The head of the European Union’s council of governments says the 27-nation bloc maintains “unwavering unity” in backing Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion.

European Council President Charles Michel says the EU is providing Kyiv with money and political support, adding that “Ukraine needs more and we are committed to providing more.”

The EU has slapped six packages of sanctions on Russia, the latest one being a ban on 90% of Russian crude oil imports by the end of the year. The measure is aimed at Russia’s oil and gas revenues, which are a pillar of the Kremlin’s finances.

Michel said at the annual Group of Seven summit Sunday that U.S. proposals for a price cap on Russian oil imports was under discussion.

But he cautioned that “we want to go into the details, we want to fine-tune … to make sure we have a clear understanding of what are the direct effects” if such a step were taken.

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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s wife is hosting a reduced gathering of Group of Seven leaders’ spouses in her first major appearance as first lady.

The German government said Sunday that Britta Ernst will be joined by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s wife, Carrie Johnson; France’s first lady, Brigitte Macron; and the wife of European Council President Charles Michel, Amélie Derbaudrenghien.

Ernst — a politician in her own right who is the education minister of the eastern German state of Brandenburg, where she and her husband live —- plans to take her guests on a Nordic walk with former professional skiers Christian Neureuther and Miriam Neureuther.

Sessions with researchers on climate change and with a master craftswoman in violin-making from nearby Mittenwald also are planned.

U.S. first lady Jill Biden plans to join President Joe Biden in Madrid, where he will attend a NATO summit that starts on Tuesday.

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U.S. President Joe Biden says Russian President Vladimir Putin hoped the West would “splinter” as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine drags on.

But Biden praised the allies who have stuck together and stood up to the Kremlin during the four months of war, applying sanctions on Russia while sending weaponry to Ukraine.

Greeting German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Sunday, Biden praised his counterpart for helping to sustain the pressure on Russia and exhorted him to keep at it — a central message of Biden’s five-day trip to meet allies at summits in Germany and Spain.

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

Biden added: “We can’t let this aggression take the form it has and get away with it.”

Scholz, who is hosting the annual Group of Seven summit in the Bavarian alps, greeted Biden on a balcony overlooking what the U.S. leader called a “magnificent” view of lush greenery and towering peaks.

Biden credited Scholz for helping to lead the European in standing up to Russia, saying his tough response “had a great impact on the rest of Europe to move.”

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is urging fellow Group of Seven leaders not to give in to “fatigue” over the war in Ukraine.

Johnson has expressed concern that divisions may emerge in the pro-Ukraine alliance as the four-month-old war grinds on. He says allies should not pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to concede territory in exchange for a cease fire.

The British leader said at a G-7 summit in Germany on Sunday that it was a principle that “a free, independent sovereign country like Ukraine should not be violently invaded and should not have its boundaries changed by force.”

Asked whether he thought France and Germany were doing enough, Johnson praised the “huge strides” made by Germany to arm Ukraine and cut imports of Russian gas.

He did not mention France.

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U.S. President Joe Biden says that the United States and other Group of Seven leading economies intend to announce a ban on imports of gold from Russia.

They hope that measure will further isolate Russia economically over its invasion of Ukraine.

Biden announced the step Sunday at the start of the G-7 annual summit, which this year is being held in Germany.

Senior Biden administration officials said gold is Moscow’s second largest export after energy, and that banning imports would make it more difficult for Russia to participate in global markets.

Biden’s Twitter feed said Russia “rakes in tens of billions of dollars” from the sale of its gold, its second largest export after energy.

Britain says gold exports were worth about $15.5 billion to the Russian economy in 2021 and that gold’s value for the Russian elite has increased since the war began, as wealthy Russians seek to skirt Western sanctions.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says a ban by G-7 countries on Russian gold will “directly hit Russian oligarchs and strike at the heart of Putin’s war machine.”

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Germany wants countries to join together in a ‘climate club’ to tackle global warming.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will push his plan at this year’s G-7 summit, which he is hosting from Sunday.

The ‘climate club’ idea was first floated by Yale economist William Nordhaus, who said the voluntary nature of existing climate agreements hasn’t brought sufficient progress.

Members of the club would agree on ambitious emissions targets and exempt each other from climate-related trade tariffs.

Experts say success depends on getting a critical mass of countries to join that would include major economies from Europe, North America and Asia.

That could put pressure on major polluters in the developing world, such as China and India, to step up their efforts or see their exports slapped with tariffs.

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U.S. President Joe Biden has arrived in Germany’s Bavarian alps for the annual meeting of the leading democratic economies, with the war in Ukraine and its consequences taking center stage.

Biden and his Group of Seven allies plan discussions on how to ensure energy supplies and tackle inflation against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion.

The G-7 summit also aims to make sure that the global coalition working to punish the Kremlin for the four-month-old war holds firm.

Biden was to begin his visit Sunday with a bilateral meeting with the summit’s host, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

In the afternoon Biden was to meet in both formal and informal settings with the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the European Union.

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