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Ukraine updates: Japan PM Kishida offers support to Kyiv

March 21, 2023

Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping have held a second day of talks, with the Russian leader saying China's proposals on the conflict could serve as a basis for peace. Follow DW for the latest.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida shakes hands with Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv
Ukrainian President Zelenskyy called Japan's prime minister a ' powerful defender of international order'Image: Alina Yarysh/REUTERS

Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida made an unexpected visit to Kyiv on Tuesday to hold talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Zelenskyy described Kishida as a "powerful defender of the international order" and "a longtime friend of Ukraine."

Ukraine's First Deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzheppar hailed the "historic visit" as a sign of "strong cooperation" between the two countries.

Kishida will offer "solidarity and unwavering support" to Ukraine during his visit, Japan's Foreign Ministry said.

The Japanese PM was expected to return to Tokyo after his trip to India, but changed his plans to visit Ukraine. Broadcaster NHK showed him boarding a train at the Polish border town of Przemysl.

According to a statement released by Japan's Foreign Ministry, Kishida's visit is intended to show "his respect for the courage and perseverance of the Ukrainian people standing up to defend their homeland."

During the visit, Kishida visited Bucha, a town near Kyiv where local authorities say hundreds of bodies of civilians were found.

"The world was astonished to see innocent civilians in Bucha killed one year ago. I really feel anger at the atrocity upon visiting every place here," Kishida said. He expressed his condolences to all victims and the wounded on behalf of Japan.

Kishida lays flowers at a church in Bucha, where mass graves of Ukrainian civilians were found last year
Kishida remembered the civilians who died in Bucha, a town outside KyivImage: Iori Sagisawa/AP/picture alliance

Japan has joined Western allies in imposing sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine and has also offered support to Kyiv.

The nation has also taken the unusual step of sending defensive equipment and offering refuge to those fleeing the conflict.

However, due to the nation's post-war constitution limiting its military capacity to defensive measures, Japan has not provided military support.

Here are some of the other notable developments concerning the war on Tuesday, March 21:

Xi, Putin meet for second day of talks

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping held a second day of talks on Tuesday, with Putin welcoming China's proposals on the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

"We find that many of the positions in the peace plan put forward by China agree with Russian approaches and could become the basis for a peaceful solution, once the West and Kyiv are ready for it," Putin said after talks with the Chinese head of state.

During the meeting, Xi also invited Putin "to visit China as soon as possible." Economic ties between the two world powers is at the top of the agenda on Tuesday. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping
Russia has turned to China for economic support amid Western sanctionsImage: Sputnik/Mikhail Tereshchenko/Pool via REUTERS

The two leaders are expected to sign deals to expand an "all encompassing partnership" and "strategic cooperation," the Kremlin has claimed. Russian state media reported Putin told Xi that Moscow could accommodate China's "growing demand" for energy supplies.

The meeting followed a four-and-a-half hour long discussion on Monday, during which the leaders referred to each other as "dear friend."

In that meeting, Putin commended Beijing's 12-point position paper on the conflict, which advocates for dialogue and respect for all nations' territorial sovereignty.

He also expressed his willingness to engage in discussions on the Ukraine crisis.

Xi confirmed that China was prepared to "continue to play a constructive role in promoting the political settlement" of the crisis, according to Chinese state news agency Xinhua.

China has positioned itself as a neutral party since the invasion of Ukraine, despite concerns from the United States that its actions could be a "stalling tactic" to support Russia.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Zelenskyy has expressed his interest in holding talks with Xi, although there has been no word from Beijing regarding such a meeting.

China 'financing' Russia's war in Ukraine, says security expert

By making fresh deals to buy Russian oil, China is "financing the war of Russia against Ukraine," said Niko Langa, senior fellow at the Munich Security Conference, and an expert on Russia and Ukraine.

Speaking to DW on Tuesday on the sidelines of Xi Jinping's visit to Russia, Langa said the deals contradict Xi's statements on China being on the side of the United Nations charter.

However, Langa added that the visit should not be overestimated. He said China was exploiting Russia's international isolation. 

"And if we talk about trade increasing, it's in fact Russian raw materials and Russian resources selling out cheaply to a much stronger China."

Langa said that Russia was left with no choice but to sell cheaply to China, as it crumples under biting sanctions and a fuel embargo. He added that China trying to perform a balancing act between covertly supporting Russia while avoiding stronger sanctions from the West.

Langa also touched upon the timing of the visit. On Friday, the International Criminal Court hit Putin with an arrest warrant, accusing him of war crimes in Ukraine.

"I think Putin is very proud that after his arrest warrant by the ICC that he now has an international visitor, an important one, who stays for three days. There's a lot of symbolism in that."

White House: Beijing should appeal to Russia to end war

China should urge Russia to end its invasion of Ukraine if it is interested in a constructive role in the conflict, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said.

He also voiced scepticism about Beijing's attempts to position itself as a neutral party that could serve as a possible peacemaker.

"I don't think you can reasonably look at China as impartial in any way," Kirby said. "If China wants to play a constructive role here in this conflict, then they ought to press Russia to pull its troops out of Ukraine and Ukrainian sovereign territory."

China, which has refused to condemn Russia's invasion of its neighbor, has called for a cease-fire and put forward a peace plan

Kirby said a cease-fire would serve Russian President Vladimir Putin, adding that the US would not favor it as a result.

"A cease-fire right now, freezing the lines where they are, basically gives him the time and space he needs to try to re-equip, to re-man, to make up for that resource expenditure," Kirby said.

He added that he believed China has not taken further steps in arming Russia, an earlier accusation leveled by Washington. He nevertheless cautioned that it is not yet "off the table."

The spokesman's comments come as Putin hosts Chinese President Xi Jinping in Moscow for talks. 

US Pentagon expedites tank delivery to Ukraine

The US Pentagon is speeding up the process of supplying Ukraine with battle tanks that were pledged earlier this year, by relying on an older model that should be available in Ukraine by fall.

The Pentagon said it will be sending refurbished M1A1 Abrams tanks, as the newer M1A2 could have taken a year or two to build and ship.

Officials said the M1A1 model, which can be taken from army stocks, would be easier to learn to use and maintain.

The US also promised to expedite the delivery of advanced air defenses.

The decision to supply Ukraine with Abrams tanks was part of a wider decision to provide the country with heavy tanks it had long asked Western allies for.

Germany has also pledged to supply Kyiv with Leopard 2 tanks, while Britain has promised Challenger 2 tanks.

Russia blasts UK's move to supply Ukraine with depleted uranium ammo

Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed to respond accordingly to Britain's plans to send tank ammunition containing depleted uranium to Ukraine.

In statements to the media on Monday, British junior Defense Minister Annabel Goldie said that some of the ammunition for the battle tanks the country is sending to Ukraine contain depleted uranium inside armor-piercing rounds.

"If all this happens, Russia will have to respond accordingly, given that the West collectively is already beginning to use weapons with a nuclear component," Putin said in remarks after a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping. 

The Russian president's comment is the latest in a string of similar statements, hinting that Russia will resort to its nuclear arsenal in its war on Ukraine.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu warned of a "nuclear collision" between Russia and the West due to the British decision.

"Another step has been taken, and there are fewer and fewer left," he told reporters.

Depleted uranium's density and physical properties give it the ability to easily penetrate armor and tanks. It is therefore used in weapons, despite its health risks around impact sites, where dust can seep into lungs and other vital organs.

Ukrainian troops repel Russian forces in Bakhmut

Ukrainian troops have prevented an attempted Russian advance in the front line city of Bakhmut, a senior Ukrainian general said on Tuesday.

"Assault groups of the enemy are trying to advance from the outskirts to the center of the city but our defense forces are working and destroying them 24/7," Oleksandr Syrskyi, the Commander of Ukrainian Ground Forces, wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

He added that intense fighting was ongoing.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar also said that "the defense of Bakhmut is holding and the possibilities are not yet exhausted."

The reports have not been independently verified.

Battle for Bakhmut: DW's Nick Connolly in Kyiv

Russia summons Canadian diplomat

Russia has protested to Canada's top diplomat in Moscow over what it called a "Russophobic attack" by Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly.

Canadian media had quoted Joly at a news conference on March 10 as saying: "We're able to see how much we're isolating the Russian regime right now — because we need to do so economically, politically and diplomatically — and what are the impacts also on society and how much we're seeing potential regime change in Russia."

Russia's Foreign Ministry announced on Tuesday that it had summoned Canadian charge d'affaires Brian Ebel on Monday said it reserved the right to take "appropriate countermeasures" in response to any further actions.

Russia flies strategic bombers near Japan

Russia's Defense Ministry said on Tuesday that two of its strategic missile carriers made a routine flight over the Sea of Japan, as Japan's leader was due to visit Ukraine.

The Tupolev Tu-95MS planes are capable of carrying nuclear weapons and Russia regularly flies them over international waters in the Arctic, North Atlantic and Pacific as a show of strength.

The Defense Ministry said the flights were carried out over neutral waters and in compliance with international law.

Xi invites Putin to China

Chinese President Xi Jinping invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to Beijing on Tuesday, Russia's RIA news agency reported.

Xi is midway through a three-day visit to Moscow, where he had informal talks with Putin on Monday ahead of official discussions on Tuesday.

"Yesterday I invited President Putin to visit China this year at a time that is convenient for him," Xi reportedly said at a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin on Tuesday.

More DW coverage on the war in Ukraine

Ukraine's National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption has listed Germany-based food wholesaler Metro as a financer of Russian aggression. DW looks at how multinational corporation and others have maintained business operations in Russia.

German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall, which manufactures the Leopard 2 tank, has seen its share price more than double since Russia invaded Ukraine. DW reports how Rheinmetall will now be listed on the DAX index alongside giants like Volkswagen and Siemens.

zc, ss/es (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)