Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Tuesday condemned Russia's recognition of the independence of two pro-Russian separatist regions in eastern Ukraine as violating the nation's sovereignty, as well as international law and a past peace agreement.

"Russia's series of actions violate Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, which we never tolerate and strongly criticize," Kishida told reporters.

Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told a press conference that Tokyo will work with the international community, including the Group of Seven nations, to arrange a "tough response" to Russia "including sanctions."

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida meets the press at his office in Tokyo on Feb. 22, 2022, after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized the independence of two pro-Moscow separatist regions in eastern Ukraine and ordered troops to be deployed there for "peacekeeping" missions. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

The remarks came after Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday recognized the two pro-Moscow separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent and ordered troops to be deployed there for "peacekeeping" missions, in a move that could pave the way for Russia to invade its neighbor.

Following Moscow's announcement, the United States and the European Union swiftly moved toward economic sanctions on Russia such as a ban on all new investment, trade and financing to, from or in the two Ukrainian regions.

"We will closely monitor how the situation develops with serious concern," Kishida said, adding that Japan will make "specific decisions while working closely with the international community" on how to keep pace with Western nations.

Kishida said Moscow's latest moves go against the Minsk cease-fire agreement signed by Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists.

The accord, which called for the withdrawal of heavy weaponry by both groups and the granting of special status to east Ukraine areas controlled by the separatists was reached after Russia's annexation of Crimea in southern Ukraine in 2014.

Hayashi declined to say whether the government would regard Russian troops' entry into the nation as an invasion of Ukraine if it happens, saying he cannot answer a hypothetical question.

Japan has been stepping up diplomacy over the Ukrainian crisis in recent days. Last week, Kishida spoke by phone with his British counterpart Boris Johnson and told Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy separately that a diplomatic solution is important.

Kishida held phone talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Tuesday and condemned the Russian moves as "totally unacceptable" as the acts undermine the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and breach international law.

The leaders agreed during their 30-minute talks that they will follow developments over Ukraine with "serious concern" and continue to coordinate closely, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said.

Germany is the G-7 chair this year and a virtual summit meeting is scheduled for Thursday to discuss the crisis and exhibit a united front.

On Saturday, Hayashi attended the G-7 foreign ministers' meeting in Munich, at which they warned that Russia would incur "severe and unprecedented costs" in case of further aggression against Ukraine.

The ministers from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States as well as the European Union called Moscow's "unprovoked and unjustified" massive military deployment a "challenge to global security and the international order."

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