G7 leaders condemn China for aiding Russia in its war on Ukraine

Rishi Sunak
'If you prop up Russia's war economy, you will pay a price,' said Rishi Sunak in Italy - Alessandro Garofalo/Reuters

The leaders of the G7 have condemned China for supplying Russia with components for its fight against Ukraine, the group’s strongest rebuke yet of Beijing since the conflict began.

Britain, the US and other Western countries released a joint statement on Friday pledging to take tougher action against China if it continued to supply Russia with materials used in weapons manufacturing.

American intelligence agencies believe that while China is not selling weapons to Russia, it has traded components that have been used to build them.

The G7 took its harshest line on China since the beginning of the conflict, expressing “deep concern” about the defence ties between Moscow and Beijing.

“We call on China to press Russia to stop its military aggression and immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw its troops from Ukraine,” the leaders said.

Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, said: “The UK and others have already sanctioned Chinese entities for facilitating Russia’s defence industry. The G7 has now agreed with that principle.

“So the message is clear: if you prop up Russia’s war economy, prolonging this illegal war, you will pay a price.”

Action by the G7 follows months of criticism of China by the United States, which claims that Chinese companies are directly supporting the war and helping Russia to avoid sanctions on weapons.

Joe Biden
China 'does not supply weapons, but the ability to produce those weapons', said Joe Biden in Italy - Alex Brandon/AP

Joe Biden, the US president, said on Thursday that China “does not supply weapons, but the ability to produce those weapons and the technology available to do it”.

White House officials believe that in the last quarter of 2023, more than 70 per cent of Russia’s machine-tools imports were provided by China. The imports are likely to have been used to produce ballistic missiles.

Declassified intelligence shows that China also supplied 90 per cent of Russia’s microelectronics, which are used in the production of missiles, tanks and aircraft.

The US is understood to have mounted a major diplomatic push for the G7 to become more hawkish on China, in line with American policy.

Beijing has denied directly supplying weapons to Russia and says it “prudently handles the export of dual-use items in accordance with laws and regulations”.

China has also refused to attend a Ukraine peace summit in Switzerland starting on Saturday, arguing that Russia should be allowed to attend.

The G7 statement came as Vladimir Putin set out conditions for peace talks with Ukraine, including the removal of Ukrainian troops from Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.

Putin said his next offer of a peace deal would be less attractive if Ukraine refuses his first offer.

However, such a withdrawal would mean Ukraine had conceded much of its eastern territory to Russia before peace talks even began.

Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, has repeatedly said he will not concede any territory to end the war.

This week’s G7 summit in Puglia, Italy, saw leaders set out plans for a $50 billion (£40 billion) war loan to Ukraine secured against the profits from Russian assets frozen in Europe.

Both the UK and US made separate bilateral commitments to Ukraine’s security.