Japan bans Russian coal imports, expels eight diplomats


A machine loads a BelAZ dump truck with coal at the Chernigovsky open pit mine outside the town of Beryozovsky, Kemerovo region, Siberia, Russia April 4, 2016. REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin/File Photo

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TOKYO, April 8 (Reuters) – Japan said on Friday it would ban coal imports from Russia as part of a broad escalation of sanctions that included the expulsion of eight diplomats, as part of some of its strongest steps yet to protest what he called “outrageous” actions against civilians in Ukraine.

Japan joined the United States and European Union countries in announcing sweeping sanctions this week such as banning coal imports and freezing the assets of banks and individuals, including girls. of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Read more

“Russia has repeatedly violated international humanitarian law by killing civilians and attacking nuclear power plants.

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These are unforgivable war crimes,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told a news conference.

“With decisive action (against Russia) and support that meets the needs of the Ukrainian people, we will make it clear that the international community will never accept Russia’s outrage and that Japan stands with Ukraine. .”

Earlier, in a rare move for Japan, the Foreign Ministry announced it was expelling eight diplomats and trade officials as part of a comprehensive judgment that included condemnation of Russia’s killing of civilians.

“We call on Russian troops to withdraw immediately. Its propaganda that denies killing civilians and says these incidents are faked by the West is totally unacceptable,” Foreign Press Secretary Hikariko Ono told a conference Press.

Other new sanctions included a ban on imports of certain Russian products and freezing the assets of major state lender Sberbank.

CHANGE ON COAL

The coal decision marked a change for Japan, the world’s third-largest coal importer, which was initially slow to come into line with Western countries banning coal imports.

Earlier on Friday, Commerce Minister Koichi Hagiuda said he would gradually reduce imports while looking for alternative suppliers following sanctions on Russia following its February 24 invasion of Ukraine – a move that puts highlight a potential change in Japan’s energy supply policy, which is dependent on imports. .

Russia accounted for 11% of Japan’s total coal imports in 2021, according to government data. Russia was Japan’s fifth largest supplier of raw and liquefied natural gas (LNG) in 2021. read more

Japan imports almost all of the coal it consumes, making it the third largest importer after India and China, according to data from the US Energy Information Administration.

“We would need to find other suppliers or we would have difficulty getting domestic coal, which could lead to power outages, etc. We need to avoid such a situation,” Hagiuda said.

“We will cooperate with Russian sanctions without imposing a burden on domestic industry.”

Kishida said he would work to reduce dependence on other Russian energy sources, including oil, and would develop measures to deal with rising fuel prices and others by the end of April to protect the Japanese economy.

“The government will draw up comprehensive and emergency measures against the surge in oil prices and other prices by the end of April to respond urgently and flexibly to their impacts on people’s livelihoods,” he said. Kishida said.

Japan will coordinate its actions with the United States and European countries, after the Group of Seven (G7) allies issued a statement promising additional sanctions against Russia in response to its allegations of civilian massacres in Ukraine.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “special operation”, Japan has tightened sanctions ranging from Moscow’s withdrawal from the SWIFT international payment network to freezing central bank assets.

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Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim, Ritsuko Shimizu and Tetsushi Kajimoto; Written by Mariko Katsumura and Elaine Lies; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman, Shri Navaratnam, Michael Perry and Kim Coghill

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