Japan pledges support, investment in Ukraine

Ukraine's Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida attend a memorandum of a cooperation exchange ceremony during the Japan-Ukraine Conference for Promotion of Economic Growth and Reconstruction at Keidanren Kaikan building in Tokyo, Monday, Feb. 19, 2024. (Kazuhiro Nogi/Pool Photo via AP)
Ukraine's Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida attend a memorandum of a cooperation exchange ceremony during the Japan-Ukraine Conference for Promotion of Economic Growth and Reconstruction at Keidanren Kaikan building in Tokyo, Monday, Feb. 19, 2024. (Kazuhiro Nogi/Pool Photo via AP)

TOKYO -- Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Monday pledged his country's long-term commitment to Ukraine's reconstruction, calling it a future investment, while stressing support for the war-torn country about to mark the second anniversary of Russia's invasion.

In his keynote speech at the Japan-Ukraine Conference for Promotion of Economic Growth and Reconstruction, Kishida said Japanese public and private cooperation will be a long-term partnership based on inclusivity and humanitarianism as well as technology and knowledge.

Ukraine's Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, who led his country's delegation of more than 100 people, thanked Kishida and said that "today is the new start of cooperation between the two countries."

The conference was organized by the Japanese and Ukrainian governments as well as business organizations and Japan External Trade Organization. About 300 people and 130 companies from the two sides were in attendance, according to Japanese officials.

Kishida stressed the importance of investment across industries for the future of Ukraine's development in a way that caters to its needs. Japanese and Ukrainian government agencies and companies signed more than 50 deals, vowing cooperation.

Kishida also announced the opening of a new government trade office in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.

Moreover, Japan pledged $105 million in new aid for Ukraine to fund demining and other urgently needed reconstruction projects in the energy and transportation sectors, the Foreign Ministry said.

Support for Ukraine's reconstruction is about "investing in the future," Kishida said. "The war in Ukraine is still going on at this very moment and the situation is not easy. The promotion of economic reconstruction, however, is not only an investment for the future of Ukraine," but also an investment for Japan and the world, he said.

Japan hopes to build momentum for global support for Ukraine as the war drags on and attention has diverted to the war in Gaza. Japan's focus on reconstruction -- in part due to its legal restraints on providing lethal weapons -- contrasts with many Western countries, whose largely military support faces increasing scrutiny over costs.

Shmyhal said Ukraine's reconstruction goes far beyond the removal of landmines and debris. He emphasized his country's vast experience in the farming sector and how rich it is in natural resources. He also expressed Ukraine's ambition of becoming a European digital hub with its information and cybersecurity expertise. The prime minister also urged Japanese automakers to open factories in Ukraine.

UKRAINIAN CITY FALLS

Russian forces have completed their takeover of Avdiivka by eliminating the last pocket of resistance at the eastern Ukraine city's huge coke plant, the Russian military said Monday, after the sheer weight of its troop numbers and greater air and artillery firepower drove out Kyiv's forces.

Moscow officials announced Saturday said they had taken control of Avdiivka. Ukrainian forces confirmed pulling out of the bombed-out city in what amounted to a triumph for the Kremlin even though the four-month battle was costly.

The victory was a morale boost for Russia, days ahead of the two-year anniversary of its full-scale invasion of its neighbor on Feb. 24, 2022. For Ukraine, the rout was a bleak reminder of its reliance on the supply of Western weapons and ammunition, as hold-ups in the delivery of expected aid have left it short of provisions and handicapped in the fight.

Russia is likely to keep pressing its advantage, sensing that Ukraine is weakened. It battered Avdiivka with scores of glide bombs and relentless shelling in recent days, leaving the defenders with no place to hide, according to a senior Ukrainian officer involved in the battle.

"The positions that we were holding were just annihilated," Rodion Kudriashov, deputy commander of the 3rd Assault Brigade, told The Associated Press.

The Ukrainian troops, meanwhile, were so short of ammunition that they "had to choose between targets," Kudriashov said.

Outnumbered and outgunned, they pulled back to previously prepared positions, he said.

The threat of ammunition shortages hangs over Ukraine's military, with Russia aiming to exploit the moment as the United States struggles to get political agreement for more aid and Europe strives to increase production.

The proposed $61 billion U.S. aid package for Ukraine is seen as crucial for a Ukrainian victory. Without U.S. funding, Ukraine is likely to start losing the war, analysts say.

Information for this article was contributed by Mari Yamaguchi, Susie Blann and Barry Hatton of The Associated Press.

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