The Ukrainian government apologized to Japan after it released an anti-Russian video ending with a shot of Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and Emperor Hirohito, describing the three as fascists. Japanese politicians insist that Hirohito was not responsible for Japan’s wartime actions.
The video, first posted nearly a month ago, condemns Russian President Vladimir Putin and describes the Russian political system as “ruscism.” It closes with images of Germany’s Hitler, Italy’s Mussolini, and Japan’s Hirohito, along with the text “Fascism and Nazism were defeated in 1945. We will fight ruscism, here and now.”
Japanese Twitter users were outraged, and Ukraine’s ambassador to Japan, Sergey Korsunsky complained that Hirohito “had nothing to do with the outbreak of war and fascist ideology.” Although an Axis power, Japan was led by Prime Minister Hideki Tojo during World War II, with Hirohito allowed to retain his title after the country’s defeat. However, many argue that the emperor should have been convicted as a war criminal.
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Masahisa Sato, head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s foreign policy panel, called on Sunday for Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to “take immediate action,” and on Monday announced that the ministry “requested the video to be deleted,” and that Ukraine would apologize diplomatically for the blunder.
Ukraine’s official Twitter account publicly apologized on Monday too. “Our sincere apologies to Japan for this mistake,” read the post. “We had no intention to offend the friendly people of Japan.” An edited version of the video with Hirohito’s image removed was then posted.
The diplomatic misstep comes amid a broader effort by Ukraine to appeal to Western powers for support by tying the country’s struggle to the events of the Second World War. When speaking to British politicians, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky invoked Winston Churchill, and when approaching Israel for aid, the Ukrainian leader compared Russia’s offensive with the Holocaust.
Yet Ukraine, which has integrated openly neo-Nazi militias into its national military, has also compared its wartime struggles with those of Nazi Germany. In a Twitter post calling on Western powers to impose a “no-fly zone” over Ukraine, the country’s parliament compared the bombing of Kharkov in March with allied air raids on Hamburg in 1943, rather than the bombings of any allied cities.
Japan has condemned Russia over its military operation in Ukraine, and has imposed economic sanctions on Moscow. Tokyo has also broken with decades of pacifism and sent non-lethal military aid to Kiev.
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