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Japan’s top envoy brings back 20 Ukrainians from Poland

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Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi returned from Poland on Tuesday with 20 Ukrainians displaced by Russia’s ongoing war on their country

TOKYO — Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi returned from Poland on Tuesday with 20 Ukrainians displaced by Russia’s ongoing war on their country as Tokyo seeks to play a greater role in international support for Ukraine.

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“As I observed the severe situation faced by Ukrainians who were forced to flee their country because of the Russian invasion, I have renewed my resolve that Japan should cooperate with international society and provide the utmost assistance so they can return to ordinary lives as soon as possible,” Hayashi told reporters.

Tokyo expects the 20 evacuees will stay in Japan for at least six months, and will provide further support if needed, said Deputy Justice Minister Jun Tsushima, who was traveling with Hayashi.

Tokyo has previously accepted about 300 other Ukrainians, all relatives of about 2,000 Ukrainian residents in Japan who arrived on their own since the Russian invasion began.

Foreign Ministry officials have said most Ukrainian war-displaced have ties to Europe and they hope to return when the situation allows, indicating Japan is not treating them as refugees seeking permanent residency and protection.

Hayashi said he was impressed by the high level of care and support being given to refugees in Poland, including food, medical care, counseling for those with trauma and support for children. “What we observed here will certainly help us plan our support for them in Japan,” he said.

Hayashi and the refugees arrived in Tokyo on Tuesday. After COVID-19 tests on board and necessary arrivals procedures, the Ukrainians were expected to head to their destinations — some to towns where their relatives live, and others to government facilities.

He met with them on Monday to assure them of their safety and support in Japan, where several cities, including Tokyo and Osaka, have offered to provide housing, jobs, education for children and other necessities.

Japan, which has a territorial dispute with Russia, took milder steps when Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014.

But this time, due to fears of the impact of the Russian invasion on East Asia, where China’s military has become increasingly assertive, Tokyo has taken tougher measures in line with the United States and Europe, while providing support for Ukraine.

Hayashi held talks earlier Monday with his Polish counterpart, Zbigniew Rau, as well as Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and President Andrzej Duda.

At a joint news conference with Rau, Hayashi praised Poland’s support for war-displaced Ukrainians and pledged that Japan will accept as many evacuees as possible as a humanitarian measure and to show its “solidarity” with Poland.

“In order to protect the free and open international order, Japan will continue to cooperate with its strategic partner, Poland,” Hayashi said.

As part of those efforts, Japan will continue to impose tough sanctions on Russia, Hayashi said.

Japan has pledged $100 million in emergency humanitarian aid to Poland and its neighbors that are accepting war-displaced Ukrainians, in addition to an earlier pledge of $100 million in humanitarian aid.

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