Interview] Daisaku Kaneko, the only Japanese “Volunteer Soldier in the Russian Army,” reveals “Why I am fighting against Ukraine. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Interview] Daisaku Kaneko, the only Japanese “Volunteer Soldier in the Russian Army,” reveals “Why I am fighting against Ukraine.

He was paid about 360,000 yen a month, passed several hundred times the exam to become a sniper, and was seriously wounded in battle last November.

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Mr. Kaneko (center) is pictured with his Russian military comrades. He survived the battle, in which the survival rate was said to be 1%, and is now recuperating.

As we were crawling along, bullets would whiz by our heads like in a movie, and mortars would rain down on us. It’s a fight to the death that everyone wants to escape from.”

Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, 2010. Two years have passed since the invasion, and there is only one Japanese who has joined the Russian Volunteer Army. He is Daisaku Kaneko, 49, who is currently staying in Moscow to recover from his injuries. Kaneko used to be a self-employed car repairman, but why did he become a soldier?

He says, “Even though I was successful in my business and my life became affluent, I did not feel happy. At that time, I wondered what people live for and what the survival instinct is, and I thought the battlefield was the only place where I could satisfy this question.

After receiving training in special operations operated by a private Japanese company, Kaneko became a marksmanship instructor in the Thai army. Then, last August, Kaneko traveled to Russia as a volunteer soldier and passed a four-day test administered by the Russian Ministry of Defense. He was assigned as a sniper, a position that only one in several hundred people are selected for. Mr. Kaneko continues, “The reason for joining the Russians is that the Russians invaded Ukraine.

The biggest reason for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was the Maidan Revolution of 2002. Since that revolution, military conflicts have continued between Russia and Ukraine, and while the United States and NATO, which are hostile to Russia, are also at fault, they wanted to side with Russia, which is unilaterally regarded as evil.

The Maidan Revolution refers to the coup that broke out over Ukrainian President Yanukovych, whose government was said to be pro-Russian. It is believed that the U.S. was behind the coup, which forced Yanukovych to step down, and that former U.S. President Barack Obama later admitted his involvement.

One of the commanders of the Pyatnashka Brigade, to which I belonged, was Ukrainian. A number of Ukrainians joined the Russian army, including former U.S. soldiers in the U.S. military. The reports in the Japanese media make it seem as if Russia is a nefarious country that is all about following the US, but that is not the case, as I witnessed firsthand. A Russian officer told me before a battle, “We are not fighting a war because we hate each other. We were the same people during the Soviet era. They are warriors too, and we should fight with respect for each other. Let’s end the war as soon as possible by reducing the number of soldiers by wounding them instead of killing them.

Japan has expressed its support for Ukraine in a series of military invasions. Even under such circumstances, Kaneko says he has never felt uncomfortable in the Russian military.

Last November,” he said, “I was facing the Ukrainian army across the highway in Audi Iuka. The other side had built a complete fortress and was waiting for us. We, too, had built a bunker and were monitoring the enemy forces from a large monitor using night vision and thermal surveillance cameras. At that time, a suicide mission was launched and they asked for 10 volunteers, and I raised my hand without hesitation.
We had to creep 500 meters to the fortress in the middle of the night, and one of the Russian soldiers said to me, ‘Don’t ever go. You will really die. Even though Japan, which supports Ukraine, is treated as an enemy nation by Russia, Russians consider the country and people to be separate. I have never experienced discrimination just because I am Japanese.”

Mr. Kaneko overcame the protests of his comrades and took the lead in a suicide mission. His role as a decoy placed him in great danger.

He was exposed to a great deal of danger. It was the middle of the night, but the sky was so bright from the gunfire and artillery that I thought it was daytime.

On the bank of the highway, 20 meters from the fortress, Kaneko’s kidney was damaged by a grenade explosion. A second grenade fragment pierced his cheekbone. Despite being seriously wounded to the point of death, he miraculously survived and contributed to the Russian army.

World War III would not be resigned.

The battle was said to have brought great results to the Russian army and helped the fall of Audy Iuka. Kaneko’s contribution to the front line was reported by several Russian media outlets, and he became a hero.

The remuneration for a foreign volunteer soldier like us is 220,000 rubles a month, which is about 360,000 Japanese yen. The remuneration for a foreign volunteer soldier like us is 220,000 rubles a month, which is about 360,000 Japanese yen. If you convert it into a business, it is probably not a job you would risk your life for. To be honest, I was lucky to survive. But I am also prepared to go back to the war zone for the sake of my wonderful friends.”

In March of this year, Prime Minister Tusk of Ukraine’s neighbor Poland caused quite a stir when he said, “We need to get used to the reality that the prewar era has begun. Similarly, Kaneko also speaks of certain changes in the Russian media.

The Russian media is calling the invasion of Ukraine a SVO (special military operation). However, after the terrorist attack at a concert hall near Moscow that killed 145 people, the media began to use the term “war. Public opinion has also formed in Russia that nuclear war is inevitable, and depending on the interference of other countries, Russia will not hesitate to fight a third world war.”

Without knowing where the justice of war lies, the number of casualties continues to increase.

The fresh scars Mr. Kaneko sustained as a result of his suicide mission. The shrapnel in his face is from a grenade thrown by the Ukrainian army.
A photograph of the battlefield. Two years after the invasion, European countries are becoming increasingly wary of a third world war.

From the May 3, 2024 issue of FRIDAY

  • Interview and text by Kei Kato (Nonfiction writer)

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