Wednesday, Jul 27, 2016
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Japan to step up sanctions against Russia

TOKYO — Japan is imposing more sanctions against Russia over its support for pro-Moscow rebels in Ukraine who are accused of shooting down a Malaysian jet, the chief government spokesman said today.

The sanctions include the freezing of assets held in Japan by individuals and groups supporting the separation of Crimea from Ukraine, as well as restrictions on imports from Crimea, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.

He noted that the steps are in line with measures taken by the European Union and Group of Seven nations.

Japan will also follow a recent decision by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to freeze funds for new projects in Russia, Suga said.

The new steps will take effect after they are endorsed by the Cabinet, which is expected later this week. Japan will then release a list of individuals and groups that are subject to the sanctions, Suga said.

Suga called for efforts to achieve a cease-fire, peace talks and tighter border controls.

“We urge Russia to exercise influence over separatist groups in Ukraine so that they will cooperate in the international probe into the Malaysia Airlines shoot-down,” he said. “Japan truly hopes that the Ukrainian situation will be resolved as soon as possible through diplomatic dialogue.”

The move follows the July 17 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine. The U.S. and Ukraine accuse pro-Russia rebels of firing a missile that brought the plane down, killing all 298 people on board.

The U.S. and EU have debated imposing tougher sanctions against Moscow because of its support for the rebels.

Japan earlier imposed limited sanctions on Russia, including the suspension of some bilateral talks and an entry visa ban on 23 individuals.

Relations between Japan and Russia have suffered for decades because of a territorial dispute that prevented them from signing a peace treaty after World War II. Tokyo has been seen as reluctant to ramp up sanctions against Moscow due to concerns that they could derail Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s moves toward rapprochement with Moscow.

Asked if a possible Japan visit later this year by Russian President Vladimir Putin is still on, Suga said, “Nothing has been decided.”

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