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Ukraine tops G7 agenda as leaders arrive

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By Alexander Aucott
Ukraine tops G7 agenda as leaders arrive

The ongoing conflict in Ukraine has topped the agenda as the leaders of the world’s richest countries gathered for the annual G7 summit.

The German chancellor welcomed world leaders to the meeting in the Bavarian alps.

Russia has been excluded this year because of its annexation of Crimea and the US president put standing up to Russian agression in Ukraine among his key points up for discussion.

Other important issues, he says, are maintaining a strong and prosperous European Union, forging new trade partnerships across the Atlantic and combating a variety of threats from violent extremism to climate change.

The US, Britain and Germany hope for an agreement that will offer support to EU member states to help them maintain sanctions on Moscow, which are hurting the Russian economy.

The Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives at the summit fresh from an historic first visit to Ukraine where he has been spearheading the global efforts to resolve the crisis.

The British Prime Minster David Cameron is expected to use the meeting to vent frustration at what he sees as poor progress towards a multibillion-dollar trade deal between the European Union and the United States.

The EU’s chief negotiator said in April that talks on the so-called Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) will run into next year.

A new dynamic is emerging from the transatlantic relationship which sees less direction from Washington and more demands from Europe.

Ahead of the meeting, which is taking place at the Elmau Castle, thousands of protesters marched in the nearby town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

The demonstrations were largely peaceful but isolated incidents saw clashes with police resulting in injuries on both sides, though the violence was minor compared to previous summits.

The protesters were demonstrating on a wide variety of issues from anti-capitalism to protecting the environment.