“I have heard that there are currently eight Japanese volunteer soldiers throughout Ukraine. All foreign volunteers will join an organization called ‘Foreign Legion of the Territorial Defense of Ukraine.’ Under that umbrella, there is a unit called ‘1st Battalion Voukodau,’ to which many Japanese belong. Perhaps he was also there. This unit is located in the front line in eastern Ukraine, an extremely dangerous area with bomb flying right in front of it,” said Toru Yokota, a news photographer.
On November 9, a Japanese volunteer soldier who was participating in a battle with Russian troops in Ukraine was killed. The man was Mr. A., 28, a native of Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan, who joined the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force after graduating from a high school in Fukuoka. He is believed to have entered Ukraine after the war started in February of this year, and frequently posted on his SNS about what was happening in the war zone. A source in the foreign contingent told us, “He seems like a cheerful mood maker.”
“He was like a cheerful mood-maker. During a battle in eastern Ukraine, a bomb landed right in front of him, and a piece of the bom hit him in the side of the head. I am told he died instantly.”
Mr. A said that his reason for participating in this war as a volunteer soldier was to “help the local people” and “make use of the experience and skills I gained in the Self-Defense Forces.” A few days before his death, he had posted on his SNS that he mourned the death of a friend who was also a foreign volunteer soldier, saying, “I will fight with his spirit until the end of the war. However, he too could not see the end of the war. Mr. Yokota said, “The volunteers were not enough.”
The volunteer soldiers often go to the front lines with inadequate equipment, where it is more dangerous than for the regular Ukrainian army. However, the volunteer soldiers are aware of this and are participating in this war. Immediately after the war started, there were various types of foreign volunteer soldiers, but now there are only people left who genuinely want to do something about the current situation in Ukraine. It seems that the same was true for the man who passed away.
President Zelensky visited the recaptured southern provinces on April 14 and said, “This is the beginning of the end of the war. We can only hope that those words will become a reality.”
From the December 2 and 9, 2022 issue of FRIDAY
Photographed by： Toru Yokota (first photo)