Zelenskyy likens war-torn Ukraine to A-bombed Hiroshima
HIROSHIMA – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Sunday that seeing the history of Hiroshima’s devastation by an atomic bomb over seven decades ago reminded him of what Russia’s invasion has done to his country, as he visited a museum documenting the tragedy that hit the western Japanese city.
Zelenskyy, on a visit to Japan to rally support from leaders attending a Group of Seven summit in Hiroshima, said Ukraine is determined to regain territory seized by Russia and expressed hope for Japan’s technological and other support in rebuilding the war-torn nation.
“Frankly, the pictures of Hiroshima in ruins really remind me of Bakhmut and all small (Ukrainian) cities like it,” Zelenskyy told a press conference.
Bakhmut has been at the heart of a long and fierce battle with Russia. Moscow has said the city was seized, a claim rejected by Zelenskyy.
Describing Hiroshima today as “a modern city that looks alive,” the visiting president vowed that “in Ukraine’s Bakhmut, there will be reconstruction in the future, too.”
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is intended to convey the tragedy of the U.S. bombing on Aug 6, 1945, that killed some 140,000 people by the end of that year. It is now a symbol of peace and a painful reminder of what an atomic bomb can do to humanity.
The museum’s collection includes relics, photos and other items such as burned and tattered clothing, charred lunch boxes and human hair that fell out due to radiation.
“If we were not so brave, the Russian genocide against us could have succeeded. The shadow would have been left of Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said.
The museum exhibits stone steps in which the shadow of a person thought to have been killed by the atomic blast was imprinted.
Earlier in the day, Zelenskyy placed a bouquet of flowers at a cenotaph dedicated to the victims and inscribed with a vow never to repeat the tragedy.
His visit comes amid fears of Russia resorting to nuclear weapons. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who accompanied Zelenskyy at the site, has hoped to make the G7 gathering a place to inject momentum into the global push for a world without nuclear weapons.
“We dream of getting our territories back,” Zelenskyy told the press conference, while insisting Russia has committed war crimes that should not be tolerated. “We dream of winning! We dream of peace after our victory.”
Keiko Ogura, 85, told Zelenskyy in person about her experience as an atomic bomb survivor who was eight at the time.
“As a hibakusha (atomic bomb survivor), I’m happy to have been able to play my part,” Ogura said after meeting the president at the museum. She also shared her experience with the G7 leaders who visited the site last week.
On the second day of his stay in Japan, Zelenskyy joined the G-7 leaders in a session focused on Russia’s war on Ukraine and then an extended session with other guest leaders also present, including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Zelenskyy’s visit to Japan was his first since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. The G-7, comprising Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, plus the European Union, has vowed to support Ukraine for as long as necessary, with the nation said to be preparing for a counteroffensive against Moscow.
He sat down with U.S. President Joe Biden, who has given the nod for Western nations to supply Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets and for U.S. troops to train Ukrainian pilots, and held separate talks with Kishida.
“At the summit, we received support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and the people of Ukraine. I will never forget this for the rest of my life,” Zelenskyy told Kishida via an interpreter.
During their talks, Kishida told Zelenskyy that Japan will provide additional assistance of about 100 vehicles from its Self-Defense Forces, such as trucks, and 30,000 items of rations to Ukraine, according to a government official.
Tokyo has also decided to accept injured Ukrainian soldiers for medical treatment at a Japanese hospital, the official said. The plan was revealed by Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada last week.
“Japan will continue to support Ukraine seamlessly,” the official told reporters.
Zelenskyy arrived in Hiroshima on a French government plane on Saturday. Besides Biden and Kishida, he also held talks with leaders including from Britain, Canada, Germany, France, India, Italy and South Korea.
The leaders of the G7 nations have all visited Ukraine since the war began.