Japan to ask firms not to pay for Russian gas in roubles

Move comes after Russia demanded ‘unfriendly’ countries make energy payments in roubles, instead of euros.

apan's Chief of Cabinet Secretary Matsuno Hirokazu
Japan's Chief of Cabinet Secretary Matsuno Hirokazu says Japanese firms have been asked to refuse to pay for Russian gas in roubles [File: Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters]

Japanese companies will be asked to refuse Russia’s demand that energy payments be made in roubles, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said on Tuesday.

Russia demanded last week that “unfriendly” countries must pay in roubles, not euros, for its gas in the wake of the United States and European allies teaming up on a series of sanctions aimed at Russia.

Japanese Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki last week told a parliamentary session the government did not understand Moscow’s intentions or “how they would do this”.

Japan has imposed a raft of punitive measures on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, including sanctions targeting the deputy chiefs of staff for President Vladimir Putin’s administration, the head of the Chechen Republic, and executives of companies with close ties to the Kremlin.

Tokyo has also targeted Russia’s central bank, restricted the country’s access to the SWIFT international payments system, revoked Russia’s most-favoured-nation trade status, and banned exports of Russia-bound oil refinery equipment.

Major Japanese brands including Toyota, Honda, Nintendo and Sony have halted exports to Russia, citing concerns about logistics, supply chains, and safety.

Japan, one of the United States’s closest Asian allies, has adopted a tougher line against Moscow than other countries in the region, most of which have declined to assign blame for the conflict. Apart from Japan, only South Korea, Singapore and the self-ruled island of Taiwan have announced sanctions against Moscow.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies