• Politics & Government

Air Raid Alarms During Japan Foreign Minister’s Visit to Kyiv; Joint Press Conference Relocated Underground

Ayaka Kudo / The Yomiuri Shimbun
A bridge blown up by Ukrainian troops to stop the advance of Russian troops is seen in Irpin, near Kyiv, on Sunday.

WARSAW ― The seemingly peaceful streets of Kyiv were decorated with Christmas trees, but the intermittent sound of air raid alarms was a stark reminder to me of the continuing Russian aggression as I accompanied Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa on her visit to Ukraine on Sunday.

Scars of war

The Foreign Minister’s delegation left a station in eastern Poland by sleeper train on Saturday night, and arrived in Bucha, near Kyiv, on Sunday morning, after a 10-hour journey.

Their first stop was St. Andrew’s Church, which displayed vivid photos of the massacre of civilians in Bucha by Russian troops, including a body with its hands tied behind its back with string and a dog staying by the side of the body of its owner on a snowy road.

We observed a moment of silence at a cenotaph behind the church.

In Irpin, which Russian troops occupied for about a month at the beginning of the invasion in February 2022, I saw the wreckage of a bridge that had been blown up by Ukrainian troops to prevent Russian troops from entering the area. The bridge is called the “Road of Life” because about 40,000 civilians fled the Russian attack by crossing the river. Scars of war were seen in many places in the city, including what used to be a supermarket that was reduced to only a charred skeletal framework.

Fears of missiles

Since the end of last year, the Russian military has been conducting large-scale attacks on Kyiv and other areas in Ukraine with missiles and drones.

Shortly after we arrived at a hotel in Kyiv, the air raid alarm began sounding. An alarm was also issued while Kamikawa and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba were meeting at the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry. According to a Japanese Foreign Ministry official, Kuleba continued the meeting without seeming panicked by the alarm, saying, “We don’t know the details of the situation, let’s wait and see.”

However, due to a series of alarms, I and other journalists who were waiting near a hall where a joint press conference was scheduled to take place, on the first floor of the ministry, were suddenly told: “Let’s move to the underground shelter. The press conference will be held there.”

A local Japanese Embassy official informed me that there was information that Russia had launched a ballistic missile.

The underground shelter was dimly lit, with exposed piping.

During the joint press conference, Kuleba angrily emphasized that Russia is trying to destroy Ukraine with daily missile and drone attacks. Kamikawa said, “I feel firsthand the very difficult conditions that the Ukrainian people are facing on a daily basis.”

Ayaka Kudo / The Yomiuri Shimbun
The underground shelter where Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba held a joint press conference is seen at the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry on Sunday.