A Heartbreaking Recollection from the President of the Ukrainian Parliamentary Assembly, “The Real Face of Mr. Zelensky as I Saw Him.” | FRIDAY DIGITAL

A Heartbreaking Recollection from the President of the Ukrainian Parliamentary Assembly, “The Real Face of Mr. Zelensky as I Saw Him.”

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Members of the Ukrainian Parliamentary Assembly with President Zelensky in a group photo.

I met the President in Tokyo in October of ’19. I had heard that he was a comedian in his previous career, so I thought he might be a lightweight type, but he seemed solid, as he often listens to others’ opinions and, on the other hand, checks the facts with his government officials before he speaks. Whenever he appears in a video, I remember how he was at that time and my heart aches.

I later heard that when he came to Japan, he was accompanied by his wife and children and enjoyed sightseeing in Kyoto on his own time between his busy official duties. His security guards must have been annoyed, but it was heartwarming to learn of his family-friendly side. I am really worried that we have not been able to get word of the safety of his wife and children, but I hope they are safe and sound.”

Eisuke Mori, chairman of the Japan-Ukraine Parliamentarians for Friendship Promotion (hereafter referred to as “the Diet Members Caucus”), gazed into the void for a moment.

I was moved when I visited Kiev.

The Diet was established in January 1995 by a bipartisan group of Diet members on the occasion of the visit to Japan of Leonid Kuchma, the second President of the Republic. Its first chairman was former Finance Minister Yoshiro Yoshimasa Hayashi, father of Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi (deceased), and Mr. Mori has served as chairman since 2011.

There are about 40 members of the parliamentary group, and they have visited Chernobyl and Kiev three times in total, in 2001, 2003, and 2007. The fact that the cultural capital of Japan, which Mr. Mori has witnessed firsthand, has been bombed, one can only imagine his feelings about the situation.

In Ukraine, people call the city Kiev rather than Kiev. It was a beautiful town with traditional and magnificent churches all over the city and a sense of calmness.

I first visited in ’13, and six months later, in February ’14, the Maidan Revolution took place, toppling the Yanukovych regime. Pro-Russian and pro-Western factions within Ukraine clashed, resulting in numerous deaths. As a result, President Yanukovych fled to Moscow. The turmoil at that time was also considerable, but even so, there was no such swashbuckling atmosphere at the time, and things gradually calmed down. However, I have heard that even within the country, the political situation was such that the pro-EU and pro-Russian factions were about six to four.

That all changed in 2003. When I went to Ukraine again that year on an inspection tour for the parliamentary group, it was right after Russia invaded Crimea, so the mood was all anti-Russian. It was my impression that they were more hostile to Putin personally than to Russia. I felt that President Putin’s actions changed the whole atmosphere of Ukraine. Looking back now, I guess this period was a turning point in many ways.

In 19 years, I visited Germany, Lithuania, and Estonia as part of the Constitutional Review Board, and what impressed me at that time was that Ukraine had grown into a leading IT country. I was also surprised to see that the Rakuten Group provides Viper, a free calling and messaging application, and I think they have made good use of such “support” from abroad.

In the former Soviet Union-era Ukraine, research in the fields of nuclear power generation and aerospace was advanced, and the country had an advanced education in science and technology. IT technology had advanced to such an extent that it was called the “Silicon Valley of Eastern Europe,” and new buds were being felt.

That city. ……”

On February 24, Russia stepped forward to invade Ukraine. The military power of Russia and Ukraine was called “10 to 1,” and it was initially expected that Kiev would fall within five days.

However, the Ukrainian army fought hard in various parts of the country, and even three weeks after the invasion, the capital has not fallen.

President Zelensky was the target of an assassination attempt, and although the U.S. government ordered the evacuation of the city, he continued to tweet on social media from the presidential palace grounds, “I am here [in Kiev]. I will not lay down my arms. I will protect my territory, my country, and my children,'” he said in a post inspiring the people to unite. It is likely that President Zelensky’s determination has been conveyed to the Ukrainian military, and his spirit and love for his country is holding back the Russian army.

I was also heartened to hear that Vasyl Lomachenko, former world champion of three unified boxing organizations, has also joined the army to defend his homeland. Ukraine is united. They are fighting valiantly to defend freedom, independence, and democracy, regardless of their strength ratio. However, the stronger the resistance, the greater the sacrifices. …… truly shows the inhumanity of war.”

Mori and other members of the Ukrainian parliamentary group had been alarmed since early this year by the concentration of 170,000 Russian troops near Ukraine’s borders.

On January 27, they led a general meeting in the Diet, which led to the passage of a resolution calling for an improvement in the worrisome situation in Ukraine to the eight-member House of Representatives.

However, without naming Russia by name, the resolution merely states that “the situation near Ukraine’s borders has become unstable due to the actions of foreign powers, and the tense situation continues. The text of the resolution showed consideration for Russia. Needless to say, Mr. Mori was not happy about this.

Before the resolution was adopted, Ukraine’s ambassador to Japan, Mr. Korsunsky, came to my office and saw the draft,” he said. At that time, with a regretful expression on his face, he asked me to specify the word ‘Russia’ instead of ‘foreign powers.

I told him that I understood the ambassador’s sentiment, but that since there is a principle of unanimity in parliamentary resolutions, if we put the name of Russia and the country in the draft, we would not be able to obtain the agreement of all eight factions. The ambassador must have understood the situation, because he immediately said, “It is significant that the Japanese Diet made its intentions clear. I am grateful.

After such an exchange, he offered to issue visas to the refugees and ease their entry into the country in the event of war, to which I replied, ‘We will do our utmost to help Ukraine by all means possible. The Ukrainian government was pleased, and I received a letter of thanks dated February 11 from Ruslan Sotfantsek, Chairman of the Supreme Soviet.”

Russia became a member of the G8 in 2002 and chaired the summit in St. Petersburg in 2006. Putin, who also speaks English and German, has established a certain distance with Western leaders. He loves judo, and in 2012 he even responded to a press conference by comparing the territorial dispute between Japan and Russia to judo, using the Japanese word for “draw. How does Vladimir Putin appear in the eyes of Mori, the president of the Ukrainian Parliamentary Association?

He said, “This is not the time to evaluate what he has said so far. This is not the time to evaluate what he has said so far, because he has taken military action. This is an outrageous act and out of the ordinary. Russia is a permanent member of the UN. It has that status because of its power as a major power, and while that power should be used to admonish countries like North Korea, it has used that power itself. Putin’s actions will be condemned as war crimes and his stigma will be engraved in history forever.

Even at this moment, victims are being born in Ukraine. Nevertheless, there is only so much that the Ukrainian side can do. We can only hope for an uprising of the Russian people. The economic sanctions will cause a buildup of dissatisfaction with Putin due to the inability to use credit cards and the shortage of goods. Former President Gorbachev’s faction publishes an independent newspaper and continues to criticize Putin. That is why we expect the Russian people to make a move. It is not the Russian people who are at fault. It is Putin.”

After stating this, Mr. Mori mumbled to himself.

There is only so much we can do. It sets my teeth on edge.”

  • Interview and text Daisuke Iwasaki

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