Russia vows to hit back at Japan over travel ban on 23 nationals

MOSCOW (AFP) - Moscow on Tuesday vowed to hit back at Japan over its decision to deny visas to 23 Russian nationals as part of additional sanctions linked to the crisis in Ukraine.

The Russian foreign ministry said that Tokyo's decision was "met with disappointment in Moscow, and of course will not be left without a response".

The Japanese foreign ministry said Tuesday that the Russian nationals on its list - whom it did not identify but who were reported by Tokyo media to include some government officials - were suspected of "infringing the unity of Ukraine's sovereignty and territory".

Tokyo's announcement came after the United States and Europe expanded their own lists of punitive measures against Russian officials and Kremlin-linked firms.

The Russian foreign ministry described Tokyo's decision as "a clumsy step taken under the influence of foreign pressure".

"Attempts by Japan to put pressure on Russia will in no way help de-escalate tensions around Ukraine," the Russian statement said.

Relations between Moscow and Tokyo have been strained for decades because of the status of four Pacific islands that are known as the Southern Kurils in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan.

The dispute has hurt the two sides' trade relations and prevented the signature of a peace treaty formally ending hostilities dating back to World War II.

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