Japan to freeze assets of 3 Belarusian banks

Demonstrators hold placards against Belarusian and Russian army and leaders during a demonstration in Rome, Italy, February 26, 2022. Ukrainian and Italian nationals gathered to show their support for Ukraine and to protest against its invasion from Russia. Massimo Percossi, EPA-EFE

The Japanese government announced on Friday that it would freeze the assets in Japan of three Belarusian banks as part of a new sanctions measure against Minsk, which aided Russia in its invasion of Ukraine.

The measure, which is due to be implemented on April 10, came after the European Union decided to block the three banks – Belagroprombank, Bank Dabrabyt and the Development Bank of the Republic of Belarus – from a payment network international key known as SWIFT.

By freezing the assets of banks subject to EU sanctions, Japan is seeking to cooperate with other countries to ensure the effectiveness of the punitive measures, which have also been taken against seven Russian banks.

In addition to targeting banks, Japan has already joined the United States and European countries in freezing the assets of individuals, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

The government said it would also tighten export controls to prevent Russia and Belarus from building up their military capabilities. It will ban from March 18 the export of semiconductors and telecommunications equipment to the two countries, while restricting oil refinery exports to Russia.

Japanese exports to Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which Russia has officially recognized as independent, will also be banned from March 18.

US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel welcomed Japan’s additional sanctions against Belarus, saying in a statement: “We welcome the decisive action by the government of (Prime Minister Fumio) Kishida…to impose maximum costs on the enablers of Russia’s irresponsible and illegal war against Ukraine.”