BEIJING, July 31 (Xinhua) -- Confrontation between Russia and the West triggered by the Ukraine crisis escalated further with EU and Washington threatening tougher sanctions on Moscow, which experts warned would inevitably take toll on economies of both parties.
TOUGHER SANCTIONS ON RUSSIA
On Wednesday, the leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) industrialized nations threatened more sanctions against Russia as they accused Moscow of continuing its destabilizing actions in eastern Ukraine.
The tougher steps came just two days after the EU approved a package of "significant" additional restrictive measures targeting Russia's finance, defense and energy sectors and Washington expanded its sanctions to more Russian banks and defense companies and blocked the export of specific goods and technology to Russia's energy sector.
The punitive measures was driven by what the West called Russia's continued support for rebels in eastern Ukraine and allegations that Russia has been involved in the July 17 downing of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine, which killed all 298 people on board.
The West has been claiming that pro-independence insurgents in Ukraine's east shot down the MH17 with a surface-to-air missile.
Shrugging off the accusations, Russia demanded the United States make public its relevant satellite pictures while saying Kiev should be blamed for tensions in eastern Ukraine that led to the downing of MH17 and hampered the investigation into the crash of the aircraft.
On Wednesday, the leaders of G7 -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States -- plus the presidents of the European Council and the European Commission, voiced their "grave concern" about "Russia's continued actions to undermine Ukraine's sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence."
"We once again condemn Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea, and actions to de-stabilize eastern Ukraine," they said in a statement released by the White House. "Those actions are unacceptable and violate international law."
"Russia still has the opportunity to choose the path of de-escalation, which would lead to the removal of these sanctions," they added. "If it does not do so, however, we remain ready to further intensify the costs of its adverse actions."
In their statement, the G7 leaders condemned the downing of MH17 and demanded "a prompt, full, unimpeded and transparent international investigation."
Heavy fighting between the rebels and government forces were still preventing international experts from reaching the MH17 crash site on Wednesday.
"We call upon all sides to establish, maintain and fully respect a cease-fire at and around the crash site, as demanded by UN Security Council resolution 2166, so that the investigators can take up their work and to recover the remains of all victims and their personal possessions," the G7 leaders said.
They urged Russia to end its support for rebels in eastern Ukraine and secure its border to stop the flow of weapons, equipment and militants, an allegation rejected by Moscow.