Russia expels eight Japanese diplomats in tit-for-tat move

Moscow said on Wednesday it was expelling eight Japanese diplomats in a tit-for-tat response to deportations by Tokyo over the conflict in Ukraine.

Accusing Tokyo of following an “openly hostile anti-Russian course”, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Japanese diplomats must leave by May 10, in reciprocal response to Japan’s expulsion of eight diplomats Russians.

He accused Tokyo of “taking unprecedented steps in modern Russian-Japanese relations” and “abandoning friendly and constructive relations with Russia”.

Earlier this month, Japan expelled the eight diplomats from Moscow and announced it would end Russian coal imports during the military campaign in Ukraine.

Japan has walked alongside its Western allies on sanctions against Russia since the conflict began on February 24.

Tokyo has a complex relationship with Moscow, with attempts to sign a post-World War II peace treaty hampered by a long-running dispute over islands that Japan says are “illegally occupied” by Russia.

Russia and the West have imposed a series of give and take measures on the conflict, including diplomatic expulsions and travel bans.

Meanwhile, prosecutors sent by the Japanese government have started working to support the International Criminal Court’s investigation into alleged war crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine, Jiji Press has learned.

In early March, ICC prosecutors opened an investigation into Russia’s alleged war crimes.

By lending a helping hand, Japan hopes to show its willingness to work with the international community and act resolutely against behaviors that undermine the foundations of the international order.

According to Japanese government sources, the country sent three prosecutors, including those from the Supreme Attorney General’s Office. They left Japan on Saturday and arrived in The Hague in the Netherlands, where the ICC is located, on Sunday.

The three interview ICC staff to determine areas where the court needs help. The government will consider what specific support measures it can offer after the three returns in early May.

The United Nations Asia and Far East Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, or UNAFEI, based in Tokyo’s Akishima, is considering swapping notes with the ICC.

UNAFEI was established in 1961 under an agreement between the United Nations and the Japanese government. It is managed virtually by the Research and Training Institute of the Ministry of Justice.

UNAFEI, which had made general proposals on cooperation with the ICC, will begin formal discussions on the details with the court on Thursday.

The ICC is the first permanent international criminal court created under an agreement that entered into force in 2002. It prosecutes and punishes individuals who have committed genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity or crimes of assault.

Japan is the largest financial contributor to the ICC.

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