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Germany's Scholz calls for pragmatism as U.S. pushes Russia export bans

Ukraine's President Zelenskiy visits Berlin

By Andreas Rinke

REYKJAVIK (Reuters) -German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Wednesday said his government wanted pragmatic measures to prevent the circumvention of sanctions imposed on Russia, appearing to temper U.S. calls for a more wide-ranging ban on exports.

Scholz will attend a meeting of leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) nations in Japan this week to discuss plans to tighten sanctions on Russia over the war in Ukraine.

New measures will include targeting sanctions evasion involving third countries, officials familiar with the talks have said. U.S. officials also expect G7 members to agree to adjust their approach to sanctions so that, at least for certain categories of goods, all exports are automatically banned unless they are on a list of approved items.

"We're trying to promote good, pragmatic further development," Scholz said when asked about this on the sidelines of a Council of Europe meeting in Iceland. He hoped an agreement will be reached "without there being any major system changes".

European leaders at the Council of Europe summit in Reykjavik had discussed ways to hold Russia to account for the invasion of Ukraine and unveiled a mechanism to track the losses and damage inflicted by Moscow's forces.

But Scholz said it was not clear how exactly Russia could be made to pay for the damage, suggesting there were few legal options to use frozen Russian assets for example.

Asked whether Berlin would yield to Kyiv's wishes for advanced fighter jets, Scholz said Germany's task was to strengthen Ukraine's air defences.

During the summit, Britain had said it was working with the Netherlands to forge an international coalition to help Ukraine obtain F-16 jets from its allies, though Britain, Germany and the U.S. have so far balked at supplying their own planes.

The German defence ministry published a statement on Wednesday saying it had "a positive view of the Dutch-British push to form a fighter jet coalition for Ukraine" but stressed again Germany would not contribute jets from its own stocks.

(Reporting by Andreas Rinke; writing by Matthias Williams; editing by Friederike Heine and Chizu Nomiyama)