G7 summit opens with deal to use Russian assets for Ukraine

A Group of Seven summit is opening Thursday with agreement on a U.S. proposal to back a $50 billion loan to Ukraine using frozen Russian assets as collateral, giving Kyiv a strong show of support even as Europe’s political chessboard shifts to the right.

Diplomats confirmed that an agreement had been reached on the deal before the leaders even landed in southern Italy for the three-day summit. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will be on hand and is expected to sign a separate bilateral security agreement with U.S. President Joe Biden.

Beyond the Ukraine war, Pope Francis will become the first pope to address a G7 summit, adding a dash of celebrity and moral authority to the annual gathering that is being held this year in Italy’s sun-drenched Puglia region. He’ll be speaking Friday about the promises and perils of artificial intelligence, but is expected to also renew his appeal for a peaceful end to wars in Ukraine and Gaza.

The G7 includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. Host Italy has invited several African leaders — Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, Kenyan President William Ruto and Tunisian President Kais Saied — to press Italy’s Africa initiatives. Other guests include Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, fresh off his own election, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The G7 summit is taking place in a sprawling luxury resort that’s something of a theater set, a faux town made to resemble one of Puglia’s medieval white-washed hamlets but that actually only dates from 2010.

Located next to an actual archaeological park, Borgo Egnazia features narrow streets, villas, restaurants and a town square complete with a clocktower. A favorite of celebrities, it will be sealed off to outsiders for the duration of the summit.

No such five-star accommodations await the 2,000-plus police and carabinieri forces who have been brought in to provide security. Authorities on Wednesday sequestered the decommissioned cruise ship that had been housing them in Brindisi’s port, after the police union complained about unacceptable hygienic conditions on board.

As with any G7, an assortment of anti-global, anti-war and climate activists are staging protests around the summit venue, but far from where the leaders are meeting. One group is staging a “dinner for the poor” on Friday night calling for “peace, the rights of peoples and against the Big 7 who claim to decide the destiny of the world and our planet.”


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