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Japan's Prime Minister Visits Ukraine in Latest Wartime Show of Solidarity

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, left, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, greet each other after the signing of joint documents in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 21, 2023.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, left, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, greet each other after the signing of joint documents in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 21, 2023.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida met Tuesday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv in a show of solidarity that came as Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Moscow.

The Ukrainian leader posted footage of him greeting Kishida, whom Zelenskyy called "a truly powerful defender of the international order and a longtime friend of Ukraine.”

Earlier, Kishida toured the town of Bucha, where Ukraine says more than 400 civilians were killed last year by Russian forces, and which has since become synonymous with the brutality of Moscow’s troops.

He laid a wreath outside a church before observing a moment of silence and bowing.

"The world was astonished to see innocent civilians in Bucha killed one year ago. I really feel great anger at the atrocity upon visiting that very place here," Kishida said.

"I would like to give condolences to all the victims and the wounded on behalf of the Japanese nationals,” he added. “Japan will keep aiding Ukraine with the greatest effort to regain peace."

Kishida is the latest world leader to make the trip to wartime Ukraine since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022.

In an apparent response to Kishida's trip, Russia's defense ministry said Tuesday that two of its strategic bomber planes flew over the Sea of Japan for more than seven hours.

Japan is due to host a G-7 summit of the leaders of some of the world’s largest economies in Kishida's hometown of Hiroshima in May. Tokyo has continually voiced support for Ukraine and joined rounds of sanctions against Russia. Kishida has said that the summit should demonstrate a strong will against Russia’s invasion and to uphold international order and rule of law.

Kishida’s trip was kept secret until the last minute for security reasons. It is rare for a Japanese leader to make an unannounced visit to another country.

U.S. military aid

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Monday the United States is providing $350 million in equipment and ammunition in its latest aid package for Ukraine, as European Union foreign and defense ministers finalized a plan to supply Ukraine with ammunition while replenishing their own ammunition stocks.

Three military officials told VOA the package includes more surface-to-surface rockets to use in Ukraine’s High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), more 155-millimeter ammunition for Howitzers and additional 25-millimeter rounds.

Long-range rockets for HIMARS are not included in this package, according to officials.

Blinken said the package also includes more ammunition for Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles, HARM missiles, anti-tank weapons and riverine boats.

“Russia alone could end its war today,” Blinken said. “Until Russia does, we will stand united with Ukraine for as long as it takes.”

A military official told VOA the U.S. ammunition package was being made in tandem with the efforts that EU partners were making to address Ukraine’s need for more ammunition on the battlefield as it fights the full-scale Russian invasion that began more than a year ago.

The EU’s $2 billion plan includes sending Ukraine 1 million 155-millimeter artillery shells within 12 months.

After EU foreign and defense ministers endorsed the plan during a meeting in Brussels Monday, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called the agreement a “historic decision.”

“We are taking a key step towards delivering on our promises to provide Ukraine with more artillery ammunition,” he said on Twitter.

The EU plan also calls for fast-tracking new orders of ammunition for Ukraine and encourages countries to work together on purchases through the European Defense Agency or in groups of at least three nations.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba cheered the EU move in a tweet, calling it a “game-changing decision.”

“Exactly what is needed: urgent delivery + sustainable joint procurement,” he wrote.

Some material in this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.