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G7 and EU leaders gather for a group shot at Schloss Elmau castle in Germany.

REUTERS/Lukas Barth

What We're Watching: West gets tough(er) on Russia, protests rock Ecuador, Qatar pushes Iran nuclear talks

Western leaders up the ante

Leaders of the G7 — the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Canada — have ended their gathering in the Bavarian Alps, and all of them, including non-NATO member Japan’s prime minister, have arrived in Madrid for a NATO summit set for June 28-30. The agendas for both gatherings have included a range of topics, but none more urgent than collective responses to Russia’s war in Ukraine. There will be more announcements this week on how best to impose heavy near- and longer-term costs on Russia by banning the import of Russian oil and possibly imposing a price cap on the small volumes of Russian oil Western countries still buy. But Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky will continue to warn that Ukraine can’t afford a protracted war and that his military needs powerful weapons ASAP to beat back slow-but-steady Russian advances in the Donbas region. The US has promised to deliver an advanced air defense system. Russia has responded to these gatherings by renewing long-range artillery strikes on Kyiv and other cities, including a missile strike on Monday that hit a shopping mall with more than 1,000 civilians inside.

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Guillermo Lasso and his wife Maria de Lourdes Alcivar react after Lasso wins Ecuador's presidential runoff vote.

REUTERS/Maria Fernanda Landin

What We’re Watching: Andean election results, China’s vaccine effectiveness

Andean aftermath: Two big weekend elections in South America produced two stunning results. In Ecuador's presidential runoff, the center-right former banker Guillermo Lasso upset early frontrunner Andrés Arauz, a leftist handpicked by former president Rafael Correa. Lasso will take power amid the social and economic devastation of the pandemic and will have to reckon with the rising political power of Ecuador's indigenous population: the Pachakutik party, which focuses on environmental issues and indigenous rights, is now the second-largest party in parliament. Meanwhile, in a big surprise next door in Perú, far-left union leader Pedro Castillo tallied up the most votes in the first round of that country's highly fragmented presidential election. As of Monday evening it's not clear whom he'll face in the June runoff, but three figures are in the running as votes are counted: prominent neoliberal economist Hernando De Soto, rightwing businessman Rafael López Aliaga, and conservative Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the country's imprisoned former strongman. Meanwhile, in the congressional ballot, at least 10 parties reached the threshold to win seats, but there is no clear majority or obvious coalition in sight.

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Protests against Ecuadoran President Lenin Moreno's austerity measures in Quito in October 2019.

REUTERS/Henry Romero

An exhausted Ecuador votes

On Sunday, Ecuadorans head to the polls after what has been, by any standards, a hellish 18 months.

In October 2019, the oil-dependent Andean country of 17 million people was wracked by protests and violent clashes over a plan to cut fuel subsidies that was part of a lending lifeline from the International Monetary Fund.

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