Russia’s premier intelligence and domestic security agency, the Federal Security Service (FSB), on Monday said that it had detained a Japanese consul in Russia’s Far Eastern Pacific port city of Vladivostok on charges of suspected espionage and ordered him to leave the country.
The official, identified in Russia’s Tass news agency as Tatsunori Motoki, was declared persona non grata and given 48 hours to leave, Tass reported Monday.
A persona non grata is a status applied by a host country to foreign diplomats to remove their protection of diplomatic immunity from arrest and other types of prosecution.
The FSB said the consul was declared persona non grata after he was caught “red-handed” receiving secret information on the effects of Western sanctions on the economic situation in Russia’s Far East.
It said the classified information, which also concerned Russia’s cooperation with an unnamed Asia-Pacific country, had been obtained in return for a “monetary reward”.
For its part, Japan accused Russia of “unreasonable” behaviour and threatened retaliation by means of “equivalent steps.”
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno described Motoki’s detention as unacceptable at a press briefing in Tokyo, and accused the FSB of using a “coercive” approach towards the diplomat.
“There is absolutely no evidence that the staff (consulate official) in question engaged in illegal activities as claimed by the Russian side,” Matsuno said.
“In this case, the consular officer was blindfolded from start to finish, and was taken away with both his hands and head held down, unable to move, and then subjected to coercive interrogation. The actions by the Russian side constitute a clear and serious violation of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and the Soviet-Japanese Consular Convention. It is extremely regrettable and not accepted by any means,” he added.
Japan confirmed that its diplomat would be leaving Russia by Wednesday.
Relations between Russia and Japan since the end of World War II have been defined by the dispute over sovereignty of the Kuril Islands and concluding a peace treaty.
Japan had attempted a resolution of the dispute via peaceful means following the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union — in November 2019, Japan’s foreign minister stated that he would visit Russia in December for talks about a formal World War II peace treaty, in an effort to improve relations.
However, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting Western sanctions on Moscow prompted a U-Turn in Tokyo’s approach to Russia.
In March 7, 2022, in a House of Councillors Budget Committee session Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida described a chain of islets off the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido that have been long-disputed with Russia as Japan’s “inherent territory”.
Also in solidarity with Ukraine over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Japan joined in the implementation of the Western-led sanctions against Russia and Belarus, by sanctioning a number of people linked to the Russian regime and revoking Russia’s “most favored nation” status.