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Japan to step up sanctions against Russia

TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's top government spokesman said Monday that the country is stepping up sanctions against Russia over the unrest in Ukraine.

The sanctions include the freezing of assets held in Japan by individuals and groups supporting the separation of Crimea from Ukraine, as well as a ban on Crimean imports, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said. He noted that the steps are in line with measures taken by European Union and Group of Seven nations.

Japan will disclose a list of individuals and groups subject to the sanctions after a Cabinet endorsement that could come as early as Tuesday, Suga said.

The move follows the July 17 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine. The U.S. and Ukraine accuse pro-Russia rebels of firing a missile that brought the plane down, killing all 298 people on board.

The U.S. and EU have debated imposing tougher sanctions against Moscow because of its support for the rebels.

Japan has previously imposed only limited sanctions on Russia. It has suspended bilateral talks on some issues, and imposed an entry visa ban on 23 individuals whom it hasn't publicly named.

Relations between Japan and Russia have suffered for decades due to a territorial dispute that has prevented the signing of a peace treaty after World War II. Tokyo has been seen as reluctant to ramp up sanctions due to concerns that they could threaten to derail Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's moves toward rapprochement with Moscow.

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