By Pavel Polityuk
KYIV (Reuters) – Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa, forced into a bomb shelter by an air alert in Kyiv on Sunday, pledged millions of dollars to NATO to help Ukraine avert Russian drone strikes and announced donations of generators and transformers.
“Russia has continued threats and attacks with missiles and drones in various locations, even on New Year’s Day,” Kamikawa said through an interpreter, after her news conference with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba was moved underground.
“Japan is determined to continue to support Ukraine so that peace can return,” said Kamikawa, whose stop in Kyiv, announced the same day, was not part of an announcement last month of her Jan. 5 trip to Poland, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, the United States, Canada and Germany.
Kamikawa said Japan would allocate $37 million to a NATO Trust Fund that supports equipment such as a drone detection system.
She also announced donations of five mobile gas turbine generators and seven transformers. Russian air strikes caused frequent power cuts across Ukraine last winter, and its two main cities experienced cuts due to a major attack on Jan. 2.
Air alerts have become a fact of life since Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, including in Kyiv, and many pass without casualties or damage.
However, Moscow deployed hundreds of missiles and drones over the New Year, pounding Kyiv and Kharkiv and killing at least 5 civilians and injuring more than 135, Ukrainian officials said.
Kamikawa also met President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who offered condolences for Japan’s New Year’s Day earthquake, and thanked Prime Minister Fumio Kishida “for elevating the level of relations” with Ukraine during Japan’s G7 presidency in 2023.
Sitting alongside his visitor, the Ukrainian foreign minister also noted Kyiv’s key ask of its allies, saying, “I informed my colleague … of Ukraine’s needs not only in aircraft, but above all in air defence systems.”
Japan said last month that it would prepare to ship Patriot air defence missiles to the United States after revising its arms export guidelines, in the pacifist nation’s first major overhaul of such export curbs in nine years.
It still cannot ship weapons to countries at war, but the move could indirectly benefit Ukraine by boosting Washington’s capacity to provide military aid to its ally.
Tokyo also intends to show its commitment to the recovery and reconstruction of Ukraine under a public-private partnership by hosting a Japan-Ukraine conference on Feb. 19, the Japanese foreign ministry said.
(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk and Oleksandr Kozhukhar in Kyiv; Writing by Elaine Monaghan in Washington; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle, Mark Potter and Hugh Lawson)