(NPR) Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked Japan Wednesday for its support in sanctioning Russia over its invasion of his country. Zelenskyy made his remarks in the first virtual speech to be delivered by a foreign head of state to Japan’s parliament.
“Japan is the first Asian country that applied pressure on Russia,” he said. “We want this to continue.”
He added that “to stop the tsunami of invasion in Ukraine, it is important to introduce a ban on trade with Russia.”
Japan has sanctioned Russian banks, institutions and individuals, including President Vladimir Putin himself. While out in front of its neighbors — notably China and South Korea — in sanctioning Russia, Japan has largely tried to stay in step with fellow G-7 members, including its chief ally, the U.S.
It has also paid a price for that. On Tuesday, Moscow pulled out of stalled negotiations over territorial disputes that have prevented the two sides from signing a peace treaty since the end of World War II.
“No one is certain or confident about the future,” Zelenskyy told the lawmakers, including Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who watched the speech on large screens inside the parliament’s chambers.
He also assailed the U.N. Security Council as “dysfunctional” for its failure to act decisively.
Zelenskyy warned that Russia is planning to launch attacks from the restricted zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which Russian troops seized early in the invasion. Zelenskyy provided no evidence for his claim.
But his warning about the perilous state of nuclear power plants in his country would not be lost on a Japanese audience, who know that the March 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant was the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.
Japan’s Kyodo News Agency reports that Prime Minister Kishida plans to visit the city of Hiroshima with U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel on Saturday, where they will offer flowers and prayers to the victims of the 1945 U.S. nuclear bombing of the city. Kishida represents Hiroshima in Japan’s House of Representatives.
The report suggests that the joint visit is intended to show the allies’ shared opposition to Russia’s possible use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine.