Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky wrapped up a triumphant diplomatic offensive in Hiroshima on Sunday, heading home bearing new arms, munitions and the “unwavering” diplomatic support of G7 allies.
He leveraged the powerful symbolism of Hiroshima, synonymous with the horrors of war, to press partners and sceptics alike to back his defence against Russia’s 15-month onslaught.
The need for his bold diplomatic gambit in Japan was underscored by setbacks on the ground back home, where Russia claimed to have taken control of Bakhmut after months of bloody battle.
Still Zelensky can claim victory on several fronts, having won US backing for the supply of advanced fighter jets, and the chance to woo powerful unaligned nations such as India that have not condemned Russia’s invasion.
He used the emotional history of Hiroshima to drive home his despair over the destruction of his country, including the frontline town of Bakhmut which Russian troops claim to now control.
“The photos of Hiroshima remind me of Bakhmut,” he said after a visit to the city’s museum, which documents the suffering caused by the 1945 US nuclear bomb attack.
“Absolute total destruction. There is nothing, there are no people.”
But he vowed that like Hiroshima, Ukraine would rebuild, and joined Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in a sombre ceremony to lay flowers at a cenotaph commemorating the 140,000 people killed by the bomb.
Zelensky denied that Russian troops occupy Bakhmut, though he acknowledged they were in the city, which has been ground into ruins in months of brutal fighting that shows little sign of slowing.
He left Japan with reassurances, however, that his allies will see out the fight, with US President Joe Biden insisting that Ukraine’s backers “will not waver.”
“Putin will not break our resolve as he thought he could,” Biden told reporters after meeting with Zelensky