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G7 presses IMF for Ukraine aid as Yellen says Russia hurting

G7 finance chiefs pressed the IMF on Thursday to urgently provide more aid to war-stricken Ukraine on the eve of the first anniversary of Russia's invasion.

"On February 24 last year, Russia launched its illegal, unjustifiable, and unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine, which is also an attack on the rule of law and the principles of the UN Charter," the G7 said in a statement issued by current chair Japan.

After talks in India the group urged the International Monetary Fund "to deliver a credible, ambitious, fully financed and appropriately conditioned IMF program by the end of March 2023".

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire previously said he wanted the IMF to provide $15 billion over four years.

"We need additional support for Ukraine not only militarily but also when it comes to upholding the functioning of the Ukrainian state," German counterpart Christian Lindner told reporters Thursday.

The G7 said that for 2023, based on Ukraine's needs, it had increased its commitment of budget and economic support to $39 billion.

It added that sanctions so far have "significantly undermined Russia's capacity to wage its illegal war" and that the G7 would "take further actions as needed".

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who attended the meeting in Bengaluru, said sanctions were having a "very significant negative effect".

"While by some measures the Russian economy has held up better than might initially have been expected, Russia is now running a significant budget deficit," she said.

Export controls were making it "extremely difficult" for Moscow to replenish its munitions and were contributing to an "exodus" of Russian scientists and entrepreneurs as well as foreign investment.

"Russia is running down its holdings in its sovereign wealth fund so... the price cap that we have put on Russian oil is clearly substantially reducing Russia's revenues," Yellen added.

Several countries, in particular China and India, have helped Moscow lessen the effect of sanctions by ramping up their purchases of Russian oil.

Moscow has also been able to sidestep some sanctions by importing goods from third countries.

Russia's GDP contracted by 2.1 percent in 2022 according to official figures -- far from the apocalyptic predictions from last year -- although some Western countries say the statistics are fake.

"The Russian economy and management system turned out to be much stronger than the West believed," President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday, adding that the West wants to make ordinary Russians "suffer".

- 'Better place' -

Yellen said the global economy was "in a better place" than predicted a few months ago in the wake of Russia's invasion and the resulting explosion in prices for fuel, food and other essentials.

G20 finance chiefs and central bank heads are also due to meet on Friday and Saturday in Bengaluru to discuss the dire economic effects of the war and possible debt relief for poorer nations.

About 15 percent of low-income countries are in "debt distress", the IMF has said. A record 349 million people in 79 countries face "acute food insecurity".

Any discussion on Ukraine is awkward for host India, which has not condemned the invasion. New Delhi wants to avoid the word "war" in any final statement, Bloomberg News reported.

It was unclear what level of involvement Russia would have in the wider G20 meeting. German officials said no high-ranking Russian representative will be present.

A meeting of G20 foreign ministers in New Delhi on March 1 and 2 could be tense, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expected to attend alongside US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

burs-stu/axn