Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in a virtual address to Japan’s parliament, called on MPs to keep up sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine to pressure officials in Moscow into seeking peace.
Zelenskiy praised Japan for becoming the first Asian country to sanction Russia and asked it to go even further.
He said trade with Russia should be banned and that foreign companies should withdraw from the Ukrainian market in order to prevent their investments from flowing into Russia.
Japan has acted tough against Russia since the invasion, in line with other G7 countries, although such moves have triggered retaliation.
Russia this week announced it would discontinue peace treaty talks with Japan over the disputed Kurile Islands and withdraw from joint economic projects there, citing Japan’s sanctions.
Zelenskiy’s speech was broadcast live in a parliamentary hall packed with hundreds of parliamentarians, including Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
During his approximately 10-minute speech, Zelenskiy – appearing in his now trademark olive-coloured top – also criticised Russian attacks on Chernobyl, currently entombed after the 1986 explosion, saying Russia turned a nearby nuclear waste storage site into a battlefield.
Imagine, he said, how long it will take to clean up the situation there when the war is over.
Zelenskiy, speaking through an interpreter who translated his Ukrainian into Japanese, also raised an alarm about the possibility of Russia’s use of nuclear and chemical weapons.
Zelenskiy criticised the United Nations Security Council, in which Russia and China are among five permanent members, as dysfunctional and in need of reform.
Zelenskiy’s address came hours before Kishida was to leave for Brussels to join other leaders of the G7 countries on the sidelines of an emergency NATO leaders’ meeting.
Japan has expressed solidarity with Ukraine and provided it with humanitarian assistance and non-lethal military equipment such as bulletproof jackets, binoculars and medical equipment.
Japan, though notorious for its strict refugee and immigration policy, has also pledged to accept Ukrainians fleeing from their country.
Foreign dignitaries, including former US president George W. Bush and former Philippine president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, have delivered addresses in person during visits to Japan as state guests but an online speech by a foreign leader is unprecedented.
Zelenskiy has made online speeches to politicians in several other countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, Israel and the European Union, often striking a chord with audiences by putting Ukraine’s ordeal into the historical contexts of other countries.