Japan to mull more Russia sanctions after Bucha killings

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — The government will consider additional sanctions against Russia as its military is suspected of having killed many civilians near Kyiv, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Monday.

“We’ll do what we should while working with the international community,” Kishida told reporters. Tokyo is stepping up its criticism of Moscow and accelerating preparations to act in concert with its Group of Seven peers and other nations.

“It has been revealed that extremely vicious acts were repeated. The world has received a strong shock,” Kishida told an executive meeting of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

“Murdering innocent civilians violates international humanitarian law,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told a news conference.

In a statement released Monday, Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi expressed hope for investigations by the International Criminal Court over war crimes, saying that Russia must be rigorously held accountable for its actions.

Acting in step with the United States and European nations, Japan has frozen assets of Russian President Vladimir Putin, excluded some Russian banks from international settlement networks and launched other sanctions.

Japan is expected to exchange views on fresh sanctions with other countries at meetings, including one among the G7 foreign ministers to be held in Belgium this week, as the European Union is preparing another round of sanctions following the suspected killings near Kyiv.

Critics say that Japan has only a limited number of options after switching its policy toward Russia and imposing various strict sanctions.

Sanctions related to crude oil and gas would deal a blow to Russia, which earns some 40% of its annual revenue from the natural resources. But Japan has not implemented an import ban on Russian crude oil, due to concerns about the impact on its energy security and soaring energy prices.

“It’s necessary to close loopholes,” a senior Foreign Ministry official stressed, adding that ways to enhance the effectiveness of the existing financial sanctions should be discussed first.