Pro-Moscow Japan lawmaker visits Russia in defiance of government advice

A Japanese lawmaker who has long championed close ties with Moscow has met with a senior Russian Foreign Ministry official, the ministry said Monday, on a trip that defied Japanese government advice against its nationals including legislators traveling to the country.

Muneo Suzuki, a member of the opposition Japan Innovation Party, met with Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko during the first known visit by a Japanese lawmaker to Russia since its invasion of Ukraine began in February last year.

Suzuki, a veteran lawmaker hailing from Hokkaido, northern Japan, arrived in Russia on Sunday and is scheduled to return home on Thursday, people close to him said.

At a press conference in Tokyo on Tuesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, the top government spokesman, noted that Japan has urged its nationals to avoid traveling to Russia “regardless of” the purpose of their visit.

Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa said Suzuki did not report his plan to the Japanese government in advance.

The Japan Innovation Party is considering taking disciplinary action against him for failing to comply with the necessary travel procedures when going abroad, its lawmakers said.

Suzuki previously belonged to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, currently headed by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

According to the Russian ministry, Rudenko told Suzuki that he has made important contributions to the enhancement of bilateral relations and regretted that such close ties, based on decades-old cooperation, have been harmed by Japan’s decision to join the United States in sanctions against Moscow.

Rudenko also told Suzuki that Japan’s stance does not serve its national interests and runs against the will of the Japanese people, the ministry said.

Suzuki was considering visiting Russia in the spring of this year but stopped short of making such a trip at the request of his party’s leadership.

Ahead of his departure, Suzuki said at an event in Tokyo on Friday that he will “face” Russia and continue to make “correct decisions” regarding Japan’s relations with Moscow.

By Nadeem Faisal Baiga