Former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said in an exclusive interview with TASS on Wednesday he hoped that Japan would become the first country to abolish the sanctions introduced against Russia over the Ukrainian crisis.


Yukio Hatoyama


“In my opinion, now is the right moment to look at the problem of Crimea more accurately. Crimea did not join Russia by force, the citizens of the peninsula wanted to unite with Russia. I would like Japan to accept this and to become the first country to lift sanctions,” Hatoyama said ahead of the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Japan.


Hatoyama said if Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe “had the courage to do this, then possibly President Putin would make advances to him on the issue of the Northern Territories” (term used by Japan to refer to Russia’s Southern Kuril Islands – TASS).


“I think there is a chance that US President-elect Donald Trump will be more determined to cooperate with Russia than Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton,” the former prime minister said. “Now there is a possibility for Russia and the US to build the kind of relations which were not seen under Obama.” “Judging from this, if Japan canceled sanctions earlier than the US this would be perceived positively by President Putin,” he stressed.


The Japanese government imposed sanctions on Russia amid the Ukrainian crisis. In March 2014, Tokyo suspended the consultations with Moscow on easing the visa regime and indefinitely postponed talks on the potential conclusion of three treaties concerning investment cooperation, space cooperation and prevention of dangerous military activities. After that Japan announced that it would temporarily stop issuing visas to 23 members of the Russian state and other bodies. However, their list wasn’t made public.


In addition, the Japanese authorities banned Russia’s Vneshtorgbank, Vnesheconombank, Gazprombank, Rosselkhozbank and Sberbank from issuing securities with maturities of over 90 days without special permission. As reported, Japan has also stepped up inspections aimed at preventing weapons and military technology exports to Russia.