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Zelenskyy Calls On Japan To Impose Trade Embargo On Russian Goods

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has called on Japan to increase pressure on Russia by imposing a trade embargo on Russian goods, in a virtual address to MPs in Tokyo.

Zelenskyy, who has delivered carefully tailored speeches to lawmakers in the US, UK and other countries, thanked Japan for "leading the way" among Asian countries in condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and imposing sanctions.

"Responsible states unite to protect peace. I am grateful to your state for its principled position at such a historic moment, for real assistance to Ukraine," Zelenskyy said on Wednesday in the first address of its kind to Japanese lawmakers.

"You were the first in Asia who really began to put pressure on Russia to restore peace, who supported sanctions against Russia, and I urge you to keep doing this."

In a later address to French MPs he called on French companies including Renault and the supermarket group Auchan to leave Russia. He compared the destruction of Mariupol with "the ruins of Verdun as in the photos of the first world war that everyone has seen".

Zelenskyy claimed in his address to Japanese MPs that Russian forces were preparing to use chemical weapons and launch new attacks from the exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which Russian troops occupied last month in the early stages of the invasion.

He offered no details, but said four of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants were in a "dangerous" state. The Chernobyl plant suffered a catastrophic accident 25 years before the March 2011 meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in north-east Japan, although Zelenskyy did not mention Fukushima in his address.

Japan has joined international sanctions against the Kremlin and offered humanitarian assistance. Its sanctions on 76 individuals, seven banks and 12 other bodies in Russia cover defence officials and the state-owned arms exporter 'Rosoboronexport'. It has also said it will revoke Russia’s trade status of most favoured nation.

Japan has also accepted a small number of Ukrainians fleeing the war and voiced a willingness to take more – a gesture that surprised many given its usually strict rules on refugees and asylum seekers.

In response, Russia has labelled Japan an "unfriendly" country and this week said it was suspending negotiations over a longstanding territorial dispute that has prevented the two countries from signing a post-war peace treaty.

Japan and Russia both lay claim to the Kuril islands – known as the Northern Territories in Japan – which were invaded by Soviet forces towards the end of the second world war. Japan’s prime minister, Fumio Kishida, last week said Russia was "illegally occupying" the islands, located near Japan's northernmost main island of Hokkaido.

"We also have to think about Ukraine's recovery after the war, about the people who have been forced from their homes and their strong desire to return home," Zelenskyy said.

"I think the people of Japan understand that feeling."

Zelenskyy had angered some conservative Japanese MP's when he invoked Pearl Harbour in appealing for more help from the US in a recent address to Congress.

"Remember Pearl Harbour, terrible morning of 7th December 1941, when your sky was black from the planes attacking you," Zelensky said last week.

"Just remember it, remember, September 11th, a terrible day in 2001 when evil tried to turn US cities into battlefields, when innocent people were attacked from air, just like nobody else expected it and you could not stop it. Our country experiences the same, every day, right now at this moment."

On Wednesday, the Ukrainian leader received a standing ovation after his 12-minute address, which he ended by thanking his audience in Japanese.

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