The United States and its allies suspended Russia from the Group of Eight, but the BRICS nations refused to join in the campaign to isolate Moscow.
At a meeting in the Netherlands on Monday the leaders of the G8 announced that they would cancel their planned June meeting in Sochi, Russia, and would meet instead in Brussels in the G7 format without Russia.
"We will suspend our participation in the G-8 until Russia changes course and the environment comes back to where the G-8 is able to have a meaningful discussion," the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the U.S., as well as the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission said in a declarations adopted after their meeting on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit in The Hague.
At the same time the declaration made it clear that painful «sectoral sanctions» against the Russian economy would only be imposed «if Russia continues to escalate this situation.»
U.S. officials later explained that «escalation» means military intervention in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking regions in the east and south, where demonstrators have recently called for Crimea-type referendums.
Meanwhile, the BRICS nations said they rejected the use of sanctions and «hostile language,» without specifically mentioning the Ukraine crisis.
The escalation of hostile language, sanctions and counter-sanctions, and force does not contribute to a sustainable and peaceful solution, according to international law, including the principles and purposes of the United Nations Charter,» the Foreign Ministers of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa said in a statement issued after their meeting in The Hague.
The BRICS ministers also rejected Australia’s threats to block out Russia from a G20 meeting in that country later this year.
The custodianship of the G20 belongs to all member states equally and no one member state can unilaterally determine its nature and character,» the statement said.
In a sign that tensions over Ukraine may be easing, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with his Ukrainian counterpart, Andriy Deshchytsia, for the first time in The Hague, even as Russia does not recognise the new government in Kiev.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said «the two sides agreed not to fuel further escalation in the Crimea problem that could cause casualties.»
Mr Lavrov also met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in The Hague on Monday. He said they reached «understanding» on the need to push the Ukrainian authorities towards «a constitutional reform that would take into account the interests of all regions of Ukraine without exception and… reflect these interests in state structure.»
Russia has been pressing for federalisation of Ukraine as a way to overcome the rift between its eastern and western parts and guarantee its non-bloc status.
In Ukraine security services shot and killed a leader of the ultra-nationalist Right Sector group, which spearheaded attacks on police during anti-government protests in Kiev last month.
Police said Oleksandr Muzhychko was killed in western Ukraine when he resisted arrest. He was sought for organised crime links, hooliganism and threatening government officials.
Russia has repeatedly called on Kiev to crack down on radical nationalists accused of intimidating ethnic Russians in Ukraine.
In another development, Ukraine’s Defence Minister Ihor Tenyuh was dismissed on Tuesday less than a month after the new authorities in Kiev appointed him to the post. Mr. Tenyuh had been criticized for failing to issue clear instructions to troops stranded in Crimea after the peninsula was taken over by pro-Russian forces.