By FOSTER KLUG – Associated Press
TOKYO (AP) — $20 million in UN humanitarian funds and a proposed infusion of 1.5 billion euros ($1.68 billion) in EU economic aid to Ukraine. A series of new, tougher sanctions against Russia from Japan, Europe, Australia, Taiwan and others. And a cascade of condemnation from the highest authority.
As Russian bombs and troops pounded Ukraine on the first full day of the invasion, world leaders on Friday began fine-tuning a response meant to punish Russia’s economy and its leaders, including President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle .
While there is an acute awareness that military intervention is unlikely for now, the strength, unity and speed of financial sanctions – with the notable exception of China, a strong Russian backer – signal a growing global resolve to get Moscow to back its attack rethink.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Friday that France and its European allies are determined to wreak havoc on Russia’s economy and to punish Russia with “massive and immediate sanctions” for the “stupid decisions of Vladimir Putin”.
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“We want to isolate Russia financially,” Le Maire said. “We want to cut all ties between Russia and the global financial system. We will dry up financing of the Russian economy.”
France and its allies have decided to impose more sanctions on individuals, as well as penalties on the financial, energy and other sectors, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday. The legal texts for the sanctions are being finalized and will be submitted to EU foreign ministers for approval later on Friday.
Macron also said the EU had agreed to provide Ukraine with an “unprecedented” €1.5 billion ($1.68 billion) in economic aid.
The Russian Civil Aviation Authority has banned British flights to and over Russia in retaliation for the British ban on Aeroflot flights. Rosaviatsiya said all British airlines’ flights to Russia, as well as transit flights, would be banned from Friday. The measure was taken in response to “unfriendly decisions” by UK authorities to ban Russian airline Aeroflot from flying to the UK as part of sanctions over the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Countries in Asia and the Pacific have joined the United States, the 27-nation European Union and others in the West in imposing punitive measures on Russian banks and leading companies. The nations have also instituted export controls aimed at starving Russia’s industry and military of semiconductors and other high-tech products.
“Japan must clearly show its position that we will never tolerate any attempt to change the status quo by force,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters on Friday, while announcing new punitive measures including freezing the visas and assets of Russian groups, banks and individuals. and the suspension of shipments of semiconductors and other restricted items to Russian military-affiliated organizations.
“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is an extremely serious development affecting the international order, not only for Europe but also for Asia,” Kishida said.
The moves follow Russia’s all-out invasion of Ukraine. Putin’s forces conducted airstrikes on cities and military bases, and his troops and tanks rolled into the nation from three sides. The Ukrainian government asked for help as civilians fled. Scores of Ukrainians, civilians and soldiers alike, were killed.
“An unimaginable number of innocent lives could be lost as a result of Russia’s decision,” said New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. She announced targeted travel bans against Russian officials and other measures.
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace dismissed Russia’s claims of success on the first day of its invasion, telling Sky News that it had “not achieved” its key objectives and was behind on its progress schedule.
Wallace also said that imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine would put British pilots in direct conflict with Russian forces, and its enforcement would effectively require NATO to declare war on Russia and escalate the conflict in Ukraine.
“I don’t use British troops directly against Russian troops,” Wallace told the BBC.
At the United Nations, officials have committed $20 million to support United Nations humanitarian operations in Ukraine. Regardless, the UN Security Council is expected to vote on Friday on a resolution condemning Russia and calling for the immediate withdrawal of all of its forces. Moscow will certainly veto it.
UN humanitarian aid chief Martin Griffiths said the $20 million from the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund would support emergency operations along the contact line in eastern Donetsk and Luhansk and other areas of the country, and “help with health care, shelter, Food and water and sanitation for those most affected by the conflict.”
The West and its allies have shown no inclination to send troops to Ukraine — a non-NATO member — and risk a major war on the continent. But NATO also strengthened its member states in Eastern Europe as a precaution against an attack on them.
The European Aviation Safety Agency expanded airspace, which it considers risky, to 200 nautical miles and warned of “the risk of missile launches to and from Ukraine”.
Protests by Ukrainians and their supporters were planned across Asia for Friday. In the Australian city of Melbourne, public buildings, sports stadiums and landmarks were illuminated in the Ukrainian national colors of blue and yellow.
Japan’s new sanctions follow an earlier series of measures, including suspending the distribution and issuance of new Russian government bonds in Japan – a move aimed at cutting funding to the Russian military – a ban on trade with two Ukrainian separatist regions and freezing their assets and visas.
Japan, which has long sought to regain control of the Russian-held northern islands captured at the end of World War II, took a softer stance on Moscow during Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. Tokyo’s response to the current invasion was seen as tougher and quicker, possibly related to deep concerns in Tokyo over China’s increasingly assertive military actions in the region.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said his country will join international sanctions but will not consider unilateral sanctions.
South Korea’s comparative caution is likely because its economy is heavily dependent on international trade. It also fears strained relations with Moscow could undermine efforts to resolve North Korea’s nuclear crisis. Russia is South Korea’s 10th largest trading partner, and Moscow is a veto member on the UN Security Council and has friendly relations with North Korea.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Putin late Thursday and demanded an “immediate end to the violence,” his office said in a statement.
India’s permanent UN representative urged an “urgent de-escalation” through “sustained and focused diplomacy” but refrained from either condemning Russia or recognizing Ukraine’s sovereignty.
The cautious statement reflects India’s delicate position. It relies heavily on Russia, a historical partner, for military equipment, but has sought to strengthen ties with the West over the years.
Taiwan announced on Friday that it would join economic sanctions against Russia, but did not specify what kind of measures. The sanctions could potentially focus on semiconductor chip export controls, local media reported. Taiwan is the dominant maker of such chips, a critical component used in technology from cars to laptops to cellphones.
While most nations in Asia rallied in support of Ukraine, China continued to condemn sanctions against Russia and accused the United States and its allies of provoking Moscow. Beijing, concerned about US power in Asia, has increasingly aligned its foreign policy with Russia to challenge the West.
“At a time when Australia is working together with the United Kingdom, together with the United States and Europe and Japan to cut off Russia, the Chinese government is pursuing easing trade restrictions with Russia and that is simply unacceptable,” the Australian said Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday.
“They are not throwing a lifeline at Russia in the middle of a time when they are invading another country,” he added, referring to a report in the South China Morning Post that China had announced it was fully open to Imported Russian Wheat.
In Tokyo, Ukraine’s top diplomat to Japan urged China to join international efforts to stop the Russian invasion.
“We would very much appreciate that China will exercise its ties with Russia and speak to Putin and explain to him that in the 21st century it is inappropriate to carry out this massacre in Europe,” Ambassador Sergiy Korsunsky told reporters.
AP journalists around the world contributed to this story.
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