Putin accuses the West of trying to divide Russia as G7 leaders announce more sanctions

As leaders of the G7 economies and their invited guests gathered at a summit in the Japanese city of Hiroshima on Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Western nations of trying to divide the people of his country.

Speaking via video link at the Council for Interethnic Relations, Putin said: "Our opponents decided that Russia's diversity is its weak point, and they are doing everything to divide us."

The Russian president went on to say that by opponents he meant people with "neo-colonial thinking, halfwits in fact", who he said "do not understand that it is the diversity that makes us stronger."

"We see the extent of aggressive external pressure that’s being exerted on Russia and our entire society now," Putin added. "Practically the entire arsenal - economic, military, political, informational - is directed against us, and the most powerful anti-Russian propaganda has been deployed."

New moves to punish Russia

G7 leaders agreed to more sanctions on Russia which they said would "starve Russia of G7 technology, industrial equipment and services that support its war machine."

The move comes after the United States, Britain and the European Union all announced fresh efforts to turn the screws on Moscow, 15 months into Vladimir Putin's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Visiting the Itsukushima shrine in Hiroshima, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told reporters he had one thing to say to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"My message to (Russian President) Putin is straightforward: We're not going away. Russia has conducted an illegal and unprovoked act of aggression by invading Ukraine and Russia needs to know we and other countries remain steadfast in our resolve to support Ukraine," said Sunak.

The UK also took aim at Russia's €4.5bn annual trade in diamonds, announcing a ban on the import of the gems, along with copper, aluminium and nickel.

But experts warned that limiting the diamond trade would do little to nothing to starve Russia's war machine

EU member Belgium is among the largest wholesale buyers of Russian diamonds, along with the United Arab Emirates and India, whose prime minister Narendra Modi will join the G7 talks this weekend.