Japan’s government on Thursday imposed sanctions on four additional major Russian banks and froze the assets of Russian oligarchs in a bid to ramp up pressure on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine.
The Finance Ministry said that the assets of VTB Bank, Sovcombank, Novikombank, and Otkritie bank will be blocked starting from April 2 as a result of the sanctions. Japan has previously sanctioned three Russian banks, namely VEB, Promsvyazbank, and Bank Rossiya.
The assets of Russian oligarchs would also be blocked in Japan. The Japanese government also imposed sanctions on 18 more Russian officials and seven Belarusian leaders, including Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko.
The ministry added that Japan will tighten controls on exports of controlled items to Belarus.
The new sanctions come on the heels of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s recent announcement that Japan will sanction Belarus for allowing Russian forces to use its territory to launch their invasion of Ukraine.
“As the only nation to have suffered atomic bombings in war, and as a prime minister elected from the atomic-bombed Hiroshima, I have insisted in summit diplomacy and international meetings that intimidation by, or let alone a use of nuclear weapons will never be tolerated,” Kishida was quoted saying on Thursday by Kyodo News.
Prior to the new sanctions, Kishida said that he had conveyed to Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki over the phone that Japan would be willing to open doors for Ukrainian refugees.
The United Nations has estimated that close to 700,000 people have fled Ukraine to neighboring countries since the invasion began nearly a week ago, in what the U.N. Refugee Agency says looks set to become Europe’s largest refugee crisis this century. Around half of the refugees are currently in Poland.
“To demonstrate solidarity with the Ukrainian people, we will proceed to accept those who are seeking refuge in a third country,” Kishida said, adding that the initial focus would be on people with relatives or friends in Japan.
Kishida also asked Morawiecki to assist any Japanese citizens caught in Ukraine to enter Poland via land routes, a request to which the Polish premier had assured him of full assistance.
The Japanese prime minister also held talks with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Wednesday, and said that the two countries will work closely on the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
Japan has joined the United States and other Western countries in banning Russian banks from the SWIFT global interbank network. It also blocked the assets of several Russian leaders, including President Vladimir Putin, and prohibited exports to 49 Russian entities.
“Japan will firmly implement [the sanctions] together with other members of G-7,” finance minister Shunichi Suzuki told reporters on Thursday, while referring to the Group of Seven advanced nations.
Japan’s government has also pledged to extend $100 million in emergency humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and to allow visa extensions to any Ukrainians in Japan.
Reuters contributed to this report.