Hiroshima expresses anger as Russia’s President Putin threatens countries that oppose invasion of Ukraine, suggests use of nuclear weapons

‘Unforgivable. Putin says whatever he pleases’

‘In defiance of the entire world’

After his country’s invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke on February 24, declaring Russia to be among the most powerful nuclear states in the world, among other statements. The next day, atomic bomb survivors and peace organizations in Hiroshima spoke out strongly against Mr. Putin’s remarks. By hinting at possible use of nuclear weapons, Mr. Putin seems to be threatening countries that oppose Russia’s military aggression. In response, numerous A-bomb survivor organizations sent statements of protest to Russian representatives.

Toshiyuki Mimaki, 79, chair of the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organizations (Hiroshima Hidankyo), spoke angrily about the situation. “It is unforgivable. Putin continues to disregard the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) and says whatever he pleases.” As the First Meeting of States Parties to the TPNW and the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) Review Conference are set to be held this year, Mr. Mimaki is concerned that Mr. Putin’s statements could put a damper on discussions aimed at achieving the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Kunihiko Sakuma, 77, chair of the other Hiroshima Hidankyo, also expressed exasperation. “Russia is obligated to pursue nuclear disarmament as a signatory nation to the NPT.” He added his sense that the international community needs to remain calm. “Despite Russia threatening use of nuclear weapons, the matter should be resolved without reliance on the weapons.”

With consideration paid to the upcoming NPT Review Conference, leaders of the five major nuclear weapons states, including Russia and the United States, issued a joint statement in January this year. “We affirm that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,” read the statement. Miho Tanaka, 27, a resident of Hiroshima’s Nishi Ward and co-leader of a group of young Hiroshima voters with an interest in nuclear policies, said, “President Putin’s declaration negates the joint statement, showing his lack of seriousness about engagement in nuclear disarmament efforts.”

Toshiko Tanaka, 83, a resident of Hiroshima’s Higashi Ward who shares stories of her A-bombing experience in Japan and overseas, is anxious about the present situation in Ukraine, a country she visited in 2012. “Amid the rise in number of member nations to the TPNW, I can’t believe he used nuclear weapons as a threat. The invasion needs to be ended immediately through diplomatic efforts.”

Many groups have issued statements of protest. In response to Mr. Putin’s suggestion regarding use of nuclear weapons, a statement from seven Hiroshima A-bomb survivors’ groups declared that, “Any situation from which are created more A-bomb survivors must be averted.” The Hiroshima chapter of the Japan Council against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs (Gensuikyo) wrote that, “His statement is in defiance of the human race and the entire world.” The statements were all sent by fax to the Russian Federation Embassy in Japan.

Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui also released a statement, indicating, “The statement tramples on the A-bomb survivors’ wish for peace. I am indignant.” Hiroshima Prefectural Governor Hidehiko Yuzaki said, “As the governor of the prefecture that experienced an atomic bombing, the situation is absolutely unacceptable.”

(Originally published on February 26, 2022)