(Adds Japan's reaction, context)
MOSCOW Aug 22 Russia on Friday banned several
Japanese citizens from entering the country, expanding
retaliatory measures against countries which have imposed
sanctions over the crisis in Ukraine.
Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement that the ban
was a response to visa restrictions that Japan had imposed on a
number of Russian citizens. Neither the Russian nor Japanese
foreign ministries said who was on the list.
"Such counter-measures will have a negative impact on
Japan-Russian relations and it is extremely regrettable," the
Japanese foreign ministry said in a statement.
The United States and the European Union have imposed
sanctions on Moscow for the annexation of Crimea and for what
the West says is Moscow's support of separatists fighting the
forces of Kiev's pro-Western government in eastern Ukraine.
On Friday, the crisis escalated further as Russia sent a
convoy of aid trucks across the border without either Kiev's
consent or an escort of international observers in what the EU
said was a clear violation of Ukraine's border.
Japan's sanctions on Russia are lighter than those of its
close ally, the United States, and the European Union as it
tries to prevent significant damage to relations with Moscow.
Japan is hoping to forge closer energy and economic ties
with oil and gas-rich Russia following decades of strained
relations between the two countries since the end of World War
Two over disputed islands in the Pacific.
Russia seized the islands - known as the Southern Kuriles in
Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan - near the end of
World War Two and the dispute has prevented the neighbours from
signing a formal peace treaty.
This month, Japan "strongly protested" against exercises on
the islands in which Russia said more than 1,000 soldiers, five
attack helicopters and 100 other pieces of military hardware
Russia plans to at least double oil and gas flows to Asia in
the next 20 years, while Japan has resorted to huge fuel imports
to replace lost nuclear energy, after reactors were shut down
because of the 2011 Fukushima disaster.
(Reporting by Katya Golubkova in Moscow and Stanley White in
Tokyo,; Writing by Christian Lowe and Dmitry Zhdannikov)