Japan to unveil $1.28 billion aid to Ukraine at G-7 summit: NHK

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan plans to provide nearly US$1 billion (S$1.28 billion) in financial aid to Ukraine, public broadcaster NHK said on Friday, as relations with Russia cool over the Crimea crisis.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is to announce the support when he attends a Group of Seven meeting in the Netherlands on the sidelines of a nuclear-security summit next week, NHK said.

Tokyo's assistance will include loans and other financial support - totalling 100 billion yen - for infrastructure and other public projects in cooperation with the International Monetary Fund, it said.

Mr Abe told Parliament on Wednesday: "It is important to improve Ukraine's economy for the sake of a peaceful resolution of the situation."

Japan has joined the United States and other allies in ramping up the pressure on Moscow, but the crisis has created a tricky balancing act for Mr Abe, who has held multiple summits with Mr Putin since coming to office in late 2012.

Mr Abe was one of the few pro-Western leaders who attended the opening of the Winter Olympics in Sochi and held talks with President Vladimir Putin as many others stayed away amid disquiet over Moscow's anti-gay laws.

The Japanese leader has been pushing to expand the two countries' economic ties - as Tokyo finds itself embroiled in separate territorial disputes with China and South Korea - but isolating Mr Putin over Crimea threatens to derail sensitive talks.

Previously cordial ties are now strained, with Mr Abe condemning Russia for violating Ukraine's territorial integrity and threatening to impose further sanctions against Moscow over its role in the crisis.

Japan's Foreign Ministry on Tuesday announced it was suspending negotiations with Russia on easing visa requirements and would not be starting talks on a new investment accord.

Mr Putin on Tuesday signed a treaty claiming the Black Sea region as Russian territory after more than 97 per cent of Crimeans voted in favour of Kremlin rule in a disputed referendum.

The West, which has imposed sanctions of its own, condemned Moscow's actions as an annexation of Crimea.

Ukraine was to take a step closer towards the European Union on Friday after the European bloc and the US put in place sanctions on Russian figures close to Mr Putin.

Moscow has said it will retaliate by issuing its own list of sanctions against senior US officials.

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