March 25, 2022
TOKYO – Following Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s online speech to the Diet Wednesday about the devastating situation in his country, there was a wave of sympathy and support for the plight of Ukrainians and indignation at Russia’s aggression.
“Russian troops destroyed dozens of our cities … Thousands were killed,” Zelenskyy said in his address.
In his message from war-torn Ukraine, Zelenskyy said: “I’m sure you understand this feeling … The need to return to your land,” which resonated with a former resident of Japan’s northern territories — which are illegally occupied by Russia.
Yasuji Tsunoka, who left his hometown of Yuri Island — part of the Habomai group of islets — in April 1946 following the arrival of troops from the former Soviet Union, expressed sympathy after watching Zelenskyy’s speech on television at home.
“Russia, who has not agreed to return the northern territories to Japan, has invaded Ukraine, too. I’m surprised and infuriated,” said Tsunoka, 84.
In the 12-minute address, Zelenskyy also described Russian attacks on nuclear power plants that have turned these facilities into war zones.
Kunihiko Sakuma, 77, who was exposed to radiation in the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima, said the conflict has reminded him that the threat of nuclear war is real.
“We must not let Ukraine become the third place to be devastated by nuclear warfare,” said Sakuma, who chairs a Hiroshima group of atomic bomb survivors.
In Yokohama, a sister city of Odessa in southern Ukraine, people who had exchanges with Odessans listened intently to Zelenskyy’s address, in which he described children becoming victims of the war.
Yokohama Judo Association President Tsuneo Suzuki, who participated in an online exchange with an Odessa judo club in November, said Ukrainian children energetically practiced as he and two other association members demonstrated techniques.
“I very much hope they are safe,” said Suzuki, 66.