Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called on Japan’s parliament to ramp up economic sanctions against Russia, while relaying reports of a planned chemical attack and fears of a potential nuclear escalation.
In a 10-minute virtual address to the National Diet on Wednesday, Zelenskyy hailed Japan for being the first Asian country to impose sanctions on Russia, in line with other Group of Seven countries. The move resulted in Tokyo’s inclusion on the Kremlin’s list of “unfriendly” states and territories, as well as Moscow’s discontinuation of peace talks over the disputed Kuril Islands and withdrawal from joint economic projects. Zelenskyy, however, appealed to Japanese lawmakers to go further by enforcing a trade embargo on Russian goods.
“To stop the tsunami of Russia’s invasion, (Japan) must ban trade and companies need to withdraw from Russia,” he said.
The comedian-turned-president also shared that he has received reports about Russia’s plan to launch a chemical attack. This would reportedly include the use of sarin gas, the same nerve agent that killed 13 and injured thousands after it was released by the Aum Shinrikyo cult into the Tokyo subway system in March 1995.
Perhaps the most worrying of all, according to the Ukrainian president, however, is the possibility that Russia will resort to its nuclear stockpile. Such a threat is expected to resonate with Japan, the only country in the world’s history to have ever been attacked with atomic bombs.
Zelenskyy also criticized Russia’s control of Chernobyl, which is still recovering from the 1986 disaster that left it uninhabitable for up to 20,000 years. Russia, he said, lifted radioactive dust into the air during transport and turned the delicate area into a war arena.
“One of the main topics for discussion of world politicians is the question: how to react if Russia also uses nuclear weapons,” Zelenskyy said. “Any confidence of any person in the world, any country is completely destroyed.”
Following Zelenskyy’s address, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who was in attendance, said Japan will consider additional sanctions against Russia and more humanitarian assistance to Ukraine. Kishida later left for Brussels to join other Group of Seven leaders in discussions on further sanctions against Moscow.
So far, Japan has provided Ukraine with humanitarian assistance, medical equipment and non-lethal military equipment. The immigration-conservative country also pledged to accept Ukrainian refugees.