On April 6, the top article on the front page of The Sankei Shimbun newspaper was titled, “Massacre of Civilians in Ukraine, Number is Likely Much Greater.” It read:
Guterres stated he “will never forget the horrifying images of civilians killed in Bucha,” and indicated his awareness that Russia is committing “serious violations” of international humanitarian and human rights law. He censured Russia by name and said Ukraine is dealing with a “full-fledged invasion” by “the Russian Federation – a Permanent Member of the Security Council – in violation of the United Nations Charter.” He also stated, “I deeply regret the divisions that have prevented the Security Council from acting.”
That day, American Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the press corps that civilian killings in Bucha are “not the random act of a rogue unit.” He said, “It’s a deliberate campaign to kill, to torture, […] to commit atrocities.”
Japanese newspapers, television programs, and other media outlets are reporting on these atrocities, but they do their best not to show any bodies and their coverage of the tragic nature of this war seems half-hearted to me. The overseas media conveys what is actually happening with more diligence. On April 6, Yahoo! News ran an article by The Hankyoreh, a South Korean newspaper. It was titled, “Civilians Killed by Russian Forces in Bucha and Motyzhyn.” The lead read, “Bodies of multiple civilians have been found to the west of Kyiv, including a man with tape around his head and one tied up in a well. The family of a village leader was tortured and killed. The Ukrainian foreign minister says the situation in Mariupol (southeastern Ukraine) is even worse.” The article continues:
On April 4 (local time), the Ukrainian authorities confirmed that the leader of the village of Motyzhyn (45 kilometers south of Kyiv) was found dead together with her husband and son, their bodies covered in sand. Anton Herashchenko, an advisor in the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs, told Reuters that the Russian forces tortured and slaughtered Sukhenko, her husband, and their 25-year-old son. He said the Russian forces suspected the family of collaborating with the Ukrainian military, and tortured them while demanding information about the locations of the Ukrainian military’s batteries.
The son’s girlfriend testified that the family was taken captive by the Russian forces on March 23. According to her, Russian soldiers searched the Sukhenko house that morning, then returned several hours later and took the family somewhere. The family’s bodies were found covered in sand.
Reuters reported that several corpses were also found at a destroyed farm outside Motyzhyn. Most were buried in sand. One man’s head had been taped, and the body of a man found at another farm had been tied up and thrown down a well. Vadym Tokar, head of the Motyzhyn village council, said, “We can’t get [the bodies] out because there is a suspicion that they are mined.”
A great deal of similar testimony can be found in HRW’s “Ukraine: Apparent War Crimes in Russia-Controlled Areas” emergency report released on April 3. HRW interviewed 10 witnesses, victims, and residents who accused the Russian forces of committing apparent war crimes from February 27 to March 14.
According to the report, the Russian forces “rounded up five men and summarily executed one of them” on March 4 in Bucha, where the massacre occurred. It reads, “A witness told Human Rights Watch that soldiers forced the five men to kneel on the side of the road, pulled their T-shirts over their heads, and shot one of the men in the back of the head. ‘He fell [over],’ the witness said, ‘and the women [present at the scene] screamed.’”
The article contains testimony about various other atrocities committed by the Russian forces. I wish the Japanese media would more proactively report this testimony to convey the cruel nature of the war. The situation in Ukraine today is a conflict between former members of the Soviet Union. Looking back at human history, civil war is the worst type of war. The bloodiest American war was not World War II or the Vietnam War, but rather the Civil War. We should share more information about the miseries of war throughout the world as a way to learn from past wars and deter future ones.
In contrast, Russia claims that reports of civilians being slaughtered in Bucha are fake. The Sankei Shimbun posted an article on its website on April 8, “Russian Press Secretary Admits Significant Troop Losses, Negates ‘Fake’ Bucha Massacre.” This article says that Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov was interviewed by a British television news channel on April 7. Peskov stated that reports about repeated massacres in Ukraine by Russian forces, as well as satellite and other images (including those showing civilian corpses), are a “well-staged insinuation.” He said these are audacious fakes. Several days earlier, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov on April 4 also said the Bucha massacre was a “fake attack.” However, Russia is actually the source of huge volumes of fake news.
On April 8, The Nikkei website posted a special feature titled, “Tracking how Russia fabricated its pretext for invading Ukraine: Analysis of video and social media posts reveal extent of disinformation campaign.” According to this article, Nikkei first analyzed Telegram, a widely used social media service in the former Soviet bloc. Fake news increased on accounts affiliated with the Russian government approaching the start of the invasion on February 24. Experts who are close to the government spread this news, and accounts created to disinform accelerated the spread. The total views exceeded 10 million, and there were huge impacts on Russian citizens. This fake news spread outside Russia as news sites in pro-Russian countries like China, Greece, and Armenia reprinted it uncritically. The article analyzes videos posted by the Russian media and points out the possibility that Russia may have created a video depicting a Ukrainian military drone attacking journalists. It also presents proof that Russia used deepfake technology to produce a highly realistic fake video of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy calling for surrender, which was spread across the world. The Russian Ministry of Defence said on Telegram that a video taken by a Ukrainian TV station, showing civilian corpses in a city outside Kyiv, is fake because the bodies are moving. The article’s analysis says this is an optical illusion. However, the Ukrainian side is also posting fake photos and other information online, making it extremely difficult to tell what is true. When we encounter information, I believe it will be even more important for us to consider whether something is probable and make a calm judgement based on proof.
zakzak, the Yukan Fuji website, posted an article on April 8 entitled, “Russian State Duma Deputy Makes Insane Claim That Hokkaido Belongs to Russia, Revealing Territorial Aspirations: Disturbing Actions in the Illegally Occupied Northern Territories, Threat of Landing if Russia Comes to an Impasse in Ukraine.”
“All countries can make territorial demands of their neighbors. Experts say that Russia has full authority over Hokkaido.” “Japanese politicians have not learned anything from World War II. We must make them realize the fate of the Kwantung Army (former Japanese military) and once again recall those memories.”
REGNUM News Agency, an online Russian media outlet, reported on these words spoken by State Duma Deputy Sergey Mironov on April 4.
Mironov is well known in the world of Russian politics and has served as chairman of the Federation Council. He is a left-of-center State Duma member from an opposition party and is thought to have close ties with the Vladimir Putin administration.
The Soviet Union unilaterally broke the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact in the latter days of World War II. It invaded Karafuto and the Kuril Islands with the goal of occupying Hokkaido. Lieutenant General Kiichiro Higuchi led the Japanese Fifth Area Army in a desperate defense of this northerly region.
Putin indicated his intention for Russia to recognize the Ainu as indigenous people at a December 2018 human rights council meeting in Moscow, the Russian capital.
Russia certainly has territorial aspirations, including those aimed at Hokkaido. There is the possibility Russia may invade Hokkaido on a pretext such as “protecting” the Ainu.
Military journalist Kazuhiko Inoue said, “We can’t completely ignore the possibility that an impasse in Ukraine might make the Russian forces suddenly change their tactic to a landing operation on Hokkaido, where there is no American military presence. We must be prepared, and we should strengthen the Japanese-American alliance based on the assumption that Japan will be forced into a two-front war with Russia as well as China, which is carrying out intimidating actions at Okinawa’s Senkaku Islands. That would be genuine risk management.”
It is said that only around 100 Ainu people currently live in Russia’s Kamchatka region. Russia has not officially recognized the Ainu from the era of the former Soviet Union. Putin’s about-face in 2018 has been regarded as an attempt to keep Japan in check, since Japan’s stance has been to recognize the Ainu as indigenous people and use their existence as a basis for claiming rights to the Northern Territories. It is quite unlikely that Russia – which is engaged in a difficult fight in Ukraine – would immediately bring its forces to Japan in the east. I think we should regard Mironov’s statement as an attempt to constrain Japan, which is sanctioning Russia as part of the Western Bloc. However, the Russian navy held a “joint maritime patrol” (military exercise) with the Chinese navy last October when they passed through international waters in the middle of the Tsugaru Strait, and Russia is clearly putting continual military pressure on Japan. Of course, Japan must be sufficiently vigilant against and prepared for an invasion. I also believe Japan should promptly find a path to becoming a nation that is capable of independent self-defense by increasing our defense spending to enhance deterrence, and also by revising the constitution to make the Japan Self-Defense Forces into a military. Now more than ever, we must keenly realize the truth of the phrase, “To maintain peace, you must prepare for war.”
April 12 (Tuesday), 2022 6:00 p.m.