Russian member at Eminent Persons meeting pushes back at criticisms from others about Russia’s threats to use nuclear weapons, calling them “incorrect”

by Koji Higuchi and Kana Kobayashi, Staff Writers

At the International Group of Eminent Persons meeting, which opened in Hiroshima on December 10, Russia’s representative pushed back against statements made by Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and others that had denounced Russia for threatening to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine, characterizing them as “incorrect.” That friction highlighted the divisions that exist in the international community, hinting at a grim outlook for the meeting.

The member expressing disagreement was Anton Khlopkov, director of the Center for Energy and Security Studies (CENESS), based near Moscow. When introducing himself at the meeting, Mr. Khlopkov touched on statements made by Mr. Kishida and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who both declared nuclear threats to be completely unacceptable, calling the criticisms “incorrect, particularly regarding the assertion that Russia had ever threatened Ukraine with nuclear weapons.”

Serving on the group since the previous iteration of the Group of Eminent Persons, Mr. Khlopkov emphasized the significance of his visit to the A-bombed city of Hiroshima in the session featuring discussions with A-bomb survivors and young people on the meeting’s opening day. He declined to answer a question from the Chugoku Shimbun in an interview after the conclusion of that day’s meeting, indicating he was not in the position to respond.

In front of the media, Takashi Shiraishi, chancellor of the Prefectural University of Kumamoto who is serving as chair of the meeting, emphasized that the discussions among members in varying positions had been meaningful. Referring to Mr. Khlopkov’s remarks, he said, “I assume what he meant to say was that they (the comments by Mr. Kishida and others) were one-sided, but I anticipated that kind of statement.” He added, “I wasn’t at all surprised.”

(Originally published on December 12, 2022)