EDITORIAL | Putin must be totally expelled from international society

After the withdrawal of the Russian army from the areas around the Ukrainian capital of kyiv, the corpses of hundreds of murdered civilians were found strewn on the roads and in other places.

In Bucha, a city in the Kyiv region, bodies of people with their hands tied behind their backs were found. And the mayor announced that a mass grave containing the bodies of 280 townspeople had been found.

International humanitarian law prohibits the intentional attack or killing of civilians by military forces. These actions of the Russian army are absolutely unforgivable.

Russian President Vladimir Putin flouted the UN Charter when he ordered the invasion of Ukraine. And the Russian military invasion committed outrageous atrocities. Putin and the Russian officers and soldiers who perpetrated these massacres are, without a shadow of a doubt, war criminals.

A Ukrainian serviceman walks among destroyed Russian tanks in Bucha, on the outskirts of kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, April 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Japan demands full investigation

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has blasted Russia for genocide targeting his fellow citizens. He pointed out that members of the Russian military not only tortured and murdered hundreds of Ukrainian civilians, but even planted landmines on their corpses.

The Russian Defense Ministry responded, saying Russian soldiers “never got their hands on a single civilian” and also called the photos of civilian casualties a provocation. He went so far as to label atrocity reports as staged and fabricated.

Nevertheless, many Western media reporters, who entered the vicinity of kyiv from which the Russians had been driven out, witnessed the horror with their own eyes.

Obviously, it is the claims made by Moscow that are false. Aren’t the Russian leaders ashamed of the crimes against humanity that their soldiers have committed? Or is their compulsion to lie due to the fact that these barbaric crimes were premeditated?

It is natural that there has been a growing chorus of condemnation of Russia’s conduct from the global community.

US Secretary of State Tony Blinken said:Russian war crimes are increasing by the hour.” He swore that those responsible for these crimes would be prosecuted. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also condemned Russian war crimes.

In Japan, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the killing of civilians must be strongly condemned as “a violation of international law and a humanitarian issue”.

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Similarly, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said he was “deeply shocked” by the ongoing revelations of widespread and repeated “extremely appalling acts against innocent civilians.”

President Putin and the Russian officers and soldiers acting under his command must be held accountable for the crimes they continue to commit.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called on the International Criminal Court to start collecting evidence regarding these massacres of Ukrainian civilians.

Given Russia’s military might, including its possession of nuclear weapons, it will be difficult to bring its civilian and military leaders to justice. Nevertheless, the evidence of their crimes must be gathered as soon as possible.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has stressed the importance of conducting an “independent investigation”. If the Japanese government is indeed take the situation seriouslyso we urge him to be proactively involved in such an investigation, even as the war rages on.

The problems are not limited to the Kyiv region. There are also reports of atrocities committed by the Russian military against Ukrainian civilians in southeastern Ukraine, including cases of rape and looting by Russian soldiers.

Since Russia continues its invasion and its crimes against humanity without showing any proof of remorse, it must be subject to additional sanctions.

The Sakhalin 2″ LNG development project in Prigorodnoye, at the southern end of Sakhalin, continues to operate with Japanese investment. (Photo by Ryosuke Endo, Sankei)

Immediately stop Russian energy imports

Lithuania, one of the three Baltic countries in Russia’s shadow, announced a complete halt to natural gas imports from Russia and called on other members of the European Union to do the same.

The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, spoke of additional sanctions to be taken against Russia. Japan should also toughen its own sanctions to show solidarity with its EU and G7 partners.

Japan is urged to suspend its energy imports from Russia. Mitsui & Co. and Mitsubishi Corp. are among the parties that have interests in the Sakhalin-1 oil exploration project and the Sakhalin-2 LNG Development Project, as well as the Russian Federation and the government of Sakhalin. However, paying money for Russian energy, which can then be used to finance invasions and the slaughter of unarmed civilians, has become indefensible.

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Moreover, as the initiator of ongoing war crimes, President Putin must be totally expelled from international society.

Japan should ensure that Putin is not allowed to attend the United Nations General Assembly or the G20 summit to be held in Bali, Indonesia in November. If it does, Japan could announce that it is boycotting all meetings that allow it to attend.

The latest public opinion polls in Russia show an extremely high approval rating for President Putin at 70-80%.

The Russian government exercises strict control over news reporting and the internet inside the country. And for the most part, the Russian people remain in the dark about the cruel actions of the Russian military, such as the massacre of civilians and the attacks on nuclear power plants.

Putin’s popularity rating might just be a house of cards. It is extremely important that we bring the truth to the Russian people so that they work to drive this ruthless invader from power.

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(Read the editorial in Japanese at this link.)

Author: editorial board, The Sankei Shimbun