Japan to freeze assets of four more Russian banks from April 2

FILE PHOTO: Japan's Olympics Minister Shunichi Suzuki speaks at a news conference in Tokyo, Japan August 3, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

By Tetsushi Kajimoto

TOKYO (Reuters) -Japan will freeze the assets of four additional Russian banks from April 2, Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki said on Thursday, taking to seven the total number Tokyo has slapped with such sanctions.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's cabinet approved the decision to freeze the assets of VTB Bank, Sovcombank, Novikombank and Otkritie, the Ministry of Finance said in a document.

The move will take effect on April 2, a ministry official said. The banks are all closely related to the Russian government.

The size of their assets was not immediately known but VTB Bank is the second-largest Russian bank in terms of assets, the official said.

Targets of asset freezes also include dozens of individuals including Aleksandr Lukashenko, president of Belarus, which has provided footholds for Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Tokyo has also decided to ban Belarus-bound exports.

"Japan will firmly implement (the sanctions) together with other members of G7," the Group of Seven advanced nations, Suzuki told reporters.

Washington has imposed several rounds of sanctions so far, including against Russian President Vladimir Putin and the central bank. The EU on Monday imposed sanctions on 26 prominent people over Russia's invasion of Ukraine, including oligarchs and business people active in the oil, banking and finance sectors.

Tokyo's latest decision came on top of the government's announcement on Tuesday that it will freeze assets of Russia state-owned Promsvyazbank and Vnesheconombank, as well as the country's central bank.

Tokyo's banking sector sanctions have followed in the footsteps of the West with the addition of the four banks, which the European Union has decided to exclude from the SWIFT international payments network.

The official said there may be more to come: "We cannot tell whether this is it or not."

(Writing by Leika Kihara and Tetsushi KajimotoEditing by Chang-Ran Kim and Kim Coghill)

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