Japan unveils Russia, Crimea sanctions

A girl carries a kettle at a temporary facility outside from the Crimean capital Simferopol, for refugees from eastern Ukraine, on July 17, 2014 (AFP Photo/Maxv Vetrov)

Japan unveiled Tuesday details of financial sanctions against 40 individuals and two groups involved in the annexation of Crimea and destabilisation of eastern Ukraine. The decision freezes the assets of those on the list, as Tokyo joins the West in pressing Moscow to exercise its influence over pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine to achieve a peaceful resolution to the crisis. The Japanese measure targets top pro-Russian figures, such as former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and acting head of the Republic of Crimea Sergey Aksyonov. Businesses that wish to import products from Crimea will also have to receive Tokyo's approval. "Japan will continue our coordination with G7 nations and the international community to achieve a peaceful and diplomatic resolution of the Ukraine situation," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a regular briefing. "We have made our decisions to select those who were directly responsible for the annexation of Crimea and destabilisation of eastern Ukraine, and after we reviewed sanctions by the United States and EU," Suga added. Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in March of this year following a controversial referendum amid East-West tensions. Moscow has accused the US of supporting Kiev against separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine, and of "sharing the responsibility of spilt blood" in the conflict. The United States and Europe accuse Moscow of supporting the insurgents, and allege that a Russian-made missile was used to shoot down a Malaysian passenger jet that was flying over the crisis-hit region in July, killing all 298 people on board. Japan had previously implemented a set of sanctions against 23 Russian nationals, including denying visas. Before the Crimea crisis erupted earlier this year, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had actively sought to forge closer diplomatic and economic ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Suga, Abe's right-hand man, said Japan continued to seek dialogue with Russia. But the Russian foreign ministry said it had decided to postpone a vice ministerial-level meeting with Japan scheduled for late August because of the additional sanctions, Kyodo News reported. The postponement of the meeting between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov and his Japanese counterpart Shinsuke Sugiyama in Moscow further clouds the prospect of Putin visiting Japan, Kyodo said. When Abe and Putin met in Russia in February, the two agreed that Putin would visit Japan later this year.

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