Japan Aligns With U.S. and Europe in Penalizing Russia Over Ukraine War

Japan is stepping up its rhetoric and economic measures against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, furthering Moscow’s economic isolation and joining the United States and European nations in demanding investigations into war crimes charges.

The country said on Friday it would expel eight Russian diplomats and announced a ban on Russian coal and restrictions on imports including wood, vodka and machinery.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida slammed what he called “brutal and inhumane acts” by Russian forces in towns across Ukraine, including the Bucha suburb near the capital, Kyiv. He accused them of repeatedly violating international humanitarian law by attacking civilians and nuclear power plants, a sore point for Japan given its 2011 experience with the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

“We must hold Russia strictly responsible for these atrocities,” he said, calling the actions of Russian troops “unforgivable war crimes.” Japan supports an ongoing International Criminal Court investigation into Russian war crimes charges in Ukraine, he added, and would support an independent United Nations investigation.

Japan’s foreign ministry summoned the Russian ambassador on Friday and cited the mass killings of civilians as war crimes, the ministry said in a statement.

In a significant change from past instances of Russian aggression against its neighbors, Japan acted quickly after Russia invaded Ukraine in late February to send aid to Ukraine and impose penalties and sanctions. economic benefits to Russian individuals and entities.

Japan this week added hundreds of people and organizations to its sanctions on Russia and said it would freeze the assets of two of Russia’s biggest banks, Sberbank and Alfa Bank, which are also under sanctions. Americans. Mr Kishida said the country would also ban any new investment in Russia.

Measures to reduce energy imports from Russia could be costly for Japan, which is resource-poor and heavily dependent on foreign fossil fuels for its electricity generation. Mr Kishida said the country would shed its dependence on Russia by turning to renewable energy and nuclear power, moves that will likely take time and could be politically controversial. Japan took most of its nuclear power plants out of service after a 2011 tsunami triggered the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster, one of the worst in history.

Japanese officials did not specify a timeframe for the coal ban, saying only that Russian energy imports would be reduced “in stages”.

Besides coal, Japan imports significant quantities of liquefied natural gas from Russia. Mr Kishida said last week that the country would not withdraw from joint ventures with Russian state-owned companies for oil and gas projects near northern Japan. He said they were “extremely important” to Japan’s energy security.

An editorial in Yomiuri Shimbun, one of Japan’s major daily newspapers, said on Friday the country should play a role in making Russian President Vladimir V. Putin realize that his invasion of Ukraine was a mistake.

“The United States, Europe and Japan must unite and increase pressure on Russia to defeat its invasion,” the newspaper said.