TOKYO – World leaders on Wednesday sought to reinforce their harsh words about Russia’s aggression against Ukraine by announcing financial sanctions, bans on trade and travel and other measures aimed at putting pressure on Moscow to withdraw from the brink of war.
However, even as they stepped up punishment, countries in Asia and the Pacific were also preparing for the possibility of economic pain in the form of cuts to traditional energy and grain supply lines, as well as revenge for Russian cyberattacks.
“We cannot assume that there is a fair case in Russia that they are pursuing. They are behaving like thugs and hooligans, and they should be called thugs and hooligans, “said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, announcing targeted financial sanctions and travel bans as a first step in Russia’s response to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. .
The possibility of an imminent war in Ukraine has raised fears not only of mass casualties but also of widespread energy shortages and global economic chaos.
Punitive actions in Asia followed sanctions imposed by US President Joe Biden and European leaders against Russian oligarchs and banks in response to Russia’s grouping of 150,000 troops from three sides of Ukraine. While a larger army has not yet moved, Russian troops have entered rebel-held parts of eastern Ukraine after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized the independence of those areas.
In Japan, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced sanctions against Russia and the two separatist regions of Ukraine.
Kishida told reporters that Tokyo would ban any new issue and distribution of Russian government bonds in Japan because of “a series of actions that Russia is taking in Ukraine.”
Kishida said Japan would also stop issuing visas to people linked to the two Ukrainian rebel regions and freeze their assets in Japan. Tokyo will also ban trade with the two areas. He said Japanese officials were finalizing further details and added that Japan could increase sanctions if the situation worsens.
Japan has opened a temporary office in Lviv in western Ukraine to help evacuate about 120 Japanese citizens, and has organized charter flights to nearby countries, Kishida said.
South Korean officials, who are counting on imports to meet almost all demand for fossil fuels, held emergency meetings on Wednesday to consider how seriously events in Ukraine will harm their country’s economy.
So far, the consequences have been limited, but First Deputy Finance Minister Lee Yeon Won said the situation could worsen if the situation in Ukraine worsens and there is a “disruption of energy supply chains and increased market volatility.”
While South Korea is heavily dependent on imports of wheat and corn from Russia and Ukraine, Lee said the country has enough reserves to last until June or July.
The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy also discussed ways to ensure alternative energy supplies in case the crisis in Ukraine violates current methods.
U.S. officials have said the invasion is almost inevitable. U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken canceled plans to meet with his Russian counterpart in Geneva on Thursday, saying it would not be productive and that Russia’s actions show Moscow’s lack of seriousness towards a peaceful solution to the crisis.
More than two dozen EU members have unanimously agreed to impose their own initial sanctions against Russian officials. Germany has also said it is suspending the certification process for Russia’s Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline, a lucrative deal Moscow has long sought but is criticized by the United States for increasing Europe’s dependence on Russian energy.
The United States has decided to cut off the Russian government from Western finances by imposing sanctions on two of its banks and blocking trade in loans in US and European markets. The Biden administration’s actions have hit civilian leaders in Russia’s leadership hierarchy and two Russian banks considered particularly close to the Kremlin and the Russian military, with assets of more than $ 80 billion. This includes the freezing of all assets of these banks under US jurisdiction.
The Australian Cabinet on Wednesday approved sanctions and travel bans aimed at eight members of Russia’s Security Council, and agreed to join the United States and Britain, targeting two Russian banks.
“It is important that we play our part in the wider international community to ensure that those who fund and profit from the autocratic and authoritarian regime invading a neighbor have nowhere to run and nowhere to hide when it comes to trying to relocate. their money around, ”said Morrison, the prime minister.
Australia has also warned businesses to prepare for revenge through Russian cyberattacks.
In New Zealand, Russian Ambassador Georgy Zuev was summoned to a meeting with senior diplomatic officials and “to hear New Zealand’s strong opposition to Russia’s actions in recent days,” Foreign Minister Nana Mahuta said in a statement. Now Mahuta is going abroad.
At the United Nations, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the world was facing “the world’s biggest crisis in peace and security in recent years.” He called Russia’s declaration of “so-called” independence “of separatist areas in eastern Ukraine a violation of its territorial integrity and accused Moscow of” perverting the concept of peacekeeping. “
He called on the international community to unite “to save the people of Ukraine and abroad from the scourge of war” without further bloodshed.
In Washington, lawmakers from both parties in Congress have demonstrated a broadly united front that supports an independent Ukraine and promises to continue US support, even as some have sought faster and even tougher sanctions against Russia.
On Tuesday, members of Russia’s upper house, the Federation Council, voted unanimously to allow Putin to use military force outside the country, effectively formalizing the deployment of Russian troops in rebel regions, where nearly 14,000 people have died in the eight-year conflict.
AP authors around the world have contributed to this story.
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