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Protest rally held near Russian Embassy in Tokyo on day of Putin's speech

People protest near the Russian Embassy in Japan in Tokyo's Minato Ward on May 9, 2022. (Mainichi/Kentaro Ikushima)

TOKYO -- A demonstration was held near the Embassy of Russia in Japan on May 9, shortly before the start of President Vladimir Putin's speech on the anniversary of the country's victory over Germany in World War II.

    Putin once again justified the Russian invasion of Ukraine in the speech. More than two months have passed since the attacks began on Feb. 24, but a path to peace remains elusive, and people from Russia and Ukraine living in Japan have voiced a unified desire for the war to end as soon as possible.

    During the rally that lasted about an hour from around 3 p.m. near the embassy in Tokyo's Minato Ward, 16 people gathered in response to calls from a civic group, holding a paper with "No War Z" written in red to represent blood, and calling out "Putin must stop the slaughter," etc. The letter Z has become a symbol of support for the Russian military.

    A 56-year-old representative of the group that planned the rally said, "There are people in Russia who are protesting even though they could be caught for raising their voices. We should speak out in protest in Japan as well."

    A 19-year-old male university student from Moscow who lives in Tokyo said that he felt that Putin's speech stressing that the invasion was to protect Russia "sounded like strong propaganda directed toward the Russian people."

    His parents, who live in the Russian capital, are under strict information control, and he said, "No matter how perfect the government is, it is strange that it does not accept opposing opinions. We must end this war as soon as possible."

    A 44-year-old male office worker from Khabarovsk in eastern Russia, who was watching Putin's speech live on TV, angrily said, "Putin is talking about justice that he has made up in his mind alone."

    Regarding the fact that Putin made no mention of a declaration of war or the use of nuclear weapons in his speech, the office worker speculated, "He is being condemned by the international community, so I guess he is taking a bit of a wait-and-see approach."

    A Russian woman, 44, who lives in Japan, said that a family that evacuated from the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv now lives near her home, and commented, "I don't understand why civilians have to be sacrificed."

    A 34-year-old woman who works for an IT company in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward and is from Kharkiv, Ukraine, an area that has come under fierce attacks, criticized Putin's speech as "a repetition of one-sided arguments that I have heard many times." She added, "He never talked about the Ukrainians who were attacked. It's as if he lives in another world."

    A Ukrainian-born IT engineer, 26, living in Kawasaki, said, "I can't help but be angry with Putin." Even in a town about a half-hour drive from her parents' home in western Ukraine, which she thought was relatively safe, there was reportedly a missile attack on a train station.

    "There are no safe places left. I am worried about my parents' safety," she said, expressing concern about the prolonged fighting.

    (Japanese original by Haruka Kobayashi, Tokyo Bureau, and Kazuki Mogami and Seiho Akimaru, Tokyo City News Department)

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