Japan steps up Russia sanctions over Ukraine

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TOKYO (AP) — Japan said Wednesday that it has stepped up sanctions against Russia over the unrest in Ukraine to be in line with other Group of Seven nations before their upcoming meeting in New York.

The new sanctions include banning some Russian banks from issuing securities in Japan and tightening restrictions on arms exports to Russia over its support for the separation of Crimea from Ukraine, said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.

It's the third time this year that Japan has announced sanctions against Russia. But the latest announcement, which comes weeks after the European Union and the United States tightened their own sanctions against Russia, is apparently a last-minute measure to show Japan's cooperation with the other G-7 countries.

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida will join his G-7 counterparts later this week on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Japanese officials made the decision to step up the sanctions with the foreign ministers' meeting in mind "to place emphasis on our cooperation with G-7," as well as the current situation in Ukraine, Suga said, adding that the new measures were effective immediately.

Japan's past sanctions were more modest than those of the U.S. and the European Union, apparently because of Tokyo's reluctance to complicate relations with Russia, including economic ties and talks over disputed islands.

In August, Japan froze assets held in Japan by more than 40 individuals and groups supporting the separation of Crimea from Ukraine, and placed a ban on Crimean imports. Earlier, Japan had only suspended bilateral talks with Russia on some issues, and imposed an entry visa ban on 23 individuals whom it hasn't publicly named.

Japan protested to Moscow on Wednesday over a visit by Sergei Ivanov, chief of Russia's presidential staff, to one of several Russian-controlled islands also claimed by Tokyo. The dispute has kept the two countries from signing a peace treaty formally ending their World War II hostilities.

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