Eastern Europe’s pro-Japanese country threatened by Russia ―Ukraine

English Article
Translation / 翻訳

British Prime Minister Johnson spoke with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin over the phone and warned that attempts to destabilize Ukraine would have serious consequences, respecting Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. With reports of large-scale rallying of Russian troops on the Russian border with Ukraine, tensions such as those when Russia merged the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 are running in Europe and the international community.

Book about Japanese soldiers in Ukraine

Ukraine entered into diplomatic relations with Japan in 1992 when it became independent of the former Soviet Union. In 2017, in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, Japanese cultural events were held in various parts of Ukraine, which was positioned as the “Japan Year in Ukraine”.

Former Japanese soldiers detained in Ukraine in the defeat were taken to Kharkiv in the northeast and Zaporizhia in the south to engage in reconstruction work on these destroyed cities by German troops. Soviet troops were also collecting information from Unit 731, which was developing biological weapons, from detainees during the Cold War.

Unlike the German soldiers who fought with Ukraine, the treatment of former Japanese soldiers seemed to be relatively good in Ukraine, and they were sometimes given three meals a day and fish and meat. There were 211 former Japanese soldiers who died in Ukraine, many of whom died in a coal mine accident in Donetsk Oblast, but there are no memorials for Japanese people buried in 15 places in Ukraine.

Former Japanese soldier Ishinosuke Uwano (83 years old at the time), who went missing in Sakhalin and was sentenced to death during the war in 2000, was found to have survived in Ukraine for the first time in 63 years in 2006. I have returned to Hirono Town, Iwate Prefecture.

Ishinosuke Uwano, who returned to Japan in 2006, 63 years since he left Japan.

Japanese animation seems to be popular in Ukraine. When young Ukrainians such as “Pokemon”, “Fullmetal Alchemist”, “Code Geass” and “Death Note” come to Japan, it seems easy to notice that Japanese animation is more popular in Ukraine than in Japan.

In Ukraine, Japan was strongly conscious of various events to encourage Japan during the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, showing solidarity with the affected country Japan.

Students and faculty members studying Japanese at the Faculty of Foreign Studies, Lugansk National University folded a thousand paper cranes (Senbazuru)and showed their intention to solidarity with the victims. One student suggested that Senbazuru relieve sorrow.  Also, in response to the Fukushima nuclear accident, the Minister of Emergency Affairs and the Governor of Lviv Oblast commemorated the victims of the Chernobyl accident and the Great Earthquake in Japan near the Church of the Birth of Our Lady in the John Paul II Memorial Park in Lviv. They planted cherry blossoms, which are the symbol of Japan, and viburnum (deciduous shrubs of the family Lvivum), which symbolize Ukraine. Solidarity with Japan was widespread in Ukraine, with similar memorial services taking place in Mukachevo, Ujugorod, Mukachevo, Ujugorod, and Chop, Zakarpattia.

Students making senbazuru in Ukraine

Kiev’s National Opera and Ballet Theater held a charity concert for the victims, and the song “Japan” (written by Evgeny Mathushenko, composed by Mikhail Neklasov) was performed to encourage the Japanese people. In the city of Ternopoli, a charity concert “Sakura’s Lamentations” is being held.

The philanthropic fund “Chernobyl Hostage” in Jitomil City provided a simple radiation measuring device to the NGO “Chernobyl Relief and Chubu” (Nagoya City), which has continued to support victims of the Chernobyl nuclear accident. Many donations were made by Ukrainian citizens and groups to the Zhytomyr Oblast charity fund “Chernobyl Hostages”, and a letter stating “Good luck, we are with Japan” was also delivered. There were many voices in Ukraine who sympathized with Japan as a country damaged by the same nuclear power plant.

On February 7, 2019, “Northern Territories Day,” Ukrainian youths in front of the Russian embassy in Kiev caught the attitude of negotiating with Russia on the return of the two islands of the Abe administration, “Don’t be fooled by Russia.” For the Ukrainian youth who protested, they claim that four islands, not two are illegally occupied. For Ukraine, which has annexed the Crimean Peninsula, there is strong opposition to Russia, which ignores international law and seizes territory.

Ukraine youth were protesting the occupation of Japan’s Northern Islands by Russia.

Ukraine and Japan have important commonalities such as the threat of Russia and the tragedy of the nuclear accident.  Japan and the international community are required to make fair judgments regarding their territories. In particular, Japan has territorial disputes with neighboring countries such as Russia, so Russia’s attitude toward Ukraine should be strongly criticized.

Ukraine solidarity with Japan
English Article
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