Russia has expelled a Japanese official accused of spying

Putin left red-faced over embarrassing Japan joke

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Japan has banned exports of chemical weapons-related goods to Russia in an additional sanction against Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine. And in the wake of Vladimir Putin’s belligerent speech last week, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno yesterday said Tokyo was “deeply concerned” about the possible use of nuclear weapons.

Mr Matsuno has also lodged a vociferous protest about the detention of a Japanese consular official in Vladivostok whom Russian secret service officials claim was “caught red-handed” spying.

Japan also added 21 Russian organisations such as science labs as the target of existing export bans, according to a government statement released after yesterday’s cabinet meeting, which formally approved the new sanction measures announced by Mr Matsuno at a Group of Seven meeting last week.

He told reporters: “Japan is deeply concerned about the possibility of nuclear weapons used during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”

Mr Matsuno said Japan would continue to work with the international society in supporting Ukraine and sanctioning Russia.

Also yesterday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry notified Japan’s Embassy in Moscow that the official was “persona non grata.”

Russia accused him of conducting illegal espionage activity and ordered him to leave the country within 48 hours.

During the official’s interrogation, the official had his eyes covered and his hands and head pressed and immobilised, Japan’s Foreign Ministry said.

Mr Matsuno said: “The alleged illegal activity insisted by the Russian side is completely groundless.”

Japan’s Vice-Foreign Minister Takeo Mori has asked for a formal apology from the Russian government, as well as assurances that others will not be similarly targeted.

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The Russian authorities’ treatment of the official was “intimidating” during the interrogation, Mr Matsuno said, accusing Moscow of violating the Vienna convention and a Japan-Russo treaty relating to consular affairs.

He added: “It is extremely regrettable and absolutely unacceptable.”

The consular official has since been released and will return to Japan on Wednesday.

Russian news agencies reported a Japanese consulate official in Vladivostok in Russia’s far east had been detained for soliciting “restricted” information.

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) was quoted via its press service as saying: “A Japanese diplomat was detained red-handed while receiving, in exchange for financial reward, restricted information about Russia’s cooperation with another country in the Asia-Pacific region.”

The FSB named the official as Tatsunori Motoki, whom they accused of seeking out information on “the impact of Western sanctions” on the surrounding Primorye region, according to news agencies.

Moscow also released a video it claimed showed the diplomat confessing to breaking Russian laws.

In recent months Japan and Russia have expelled a number of diplomats, while Russia pulled the plug on peace negotiations with Japan which included talks on Russian-held islands that Japan claims the Soviets seized at the end of World War 2.

The Kremlin has also described Japan as a “hostile” country, a designation which is also applied to the US, UK and many other Western nations which have imposed sanctions on Russia.

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