Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy asked Japan on Wednesday to step up sanctions pressure on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, by introducing a trade embargo on Russian goods.
Japan’s sanctions on 76 individuals, seven banks and 12 other bodies in Russia cover defence officials and state-owned arms exporter Rosoboronexport. It has also said it will revoke Russia’s trade status of most favoured nation.
Speaking by video link to parliament in Tokyo in an unprecedented gesture accorded to a foreign leader, Zelenskiy thanked Japan for leading the way among Asian nations in condemning Russia’s invasion and launching sanctions.
“Responsible states unite to protect peace,” Zelenskiy said. “I am grateful to your state for its principled position at such a historical moment, for real assistance to Ukraine.
“You were the first in Asia who really began to put pressure on Russia to restore peace, who supported sanctions against Russia, and I urge you to keep doing this.”
In response to the sanctions, Russia, which calls its action in Ukraine “a special operation”, withdrew on Tuesday from peace treaty talks with Japan and froze joint economic projects related to the disputed Kuril islands.
Known in Japan as the Northern Territories, their status is one of the main barriers to a pact between the two nations that would formally end World War Two.
Without citing evidence, Zelenskiy said Russian forces were preparing new attacks from the so-called exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power station after occupying the defunct plant last month in the early stages of the war in Ukraine.
He gave no further details of the attacks he said Russia was planning.
“The world is on the verge of many new crises,” Zelenskiy said. “The environmental and food challenges are unprecedented.”
Lawmakers applauded at the start of Zelenskiy’s remarks and gave him a standing ovation at the end in a packed room in the first such event by a foreign leader in Japan’s history.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida sat in the front row, with Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi beside him.