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Ukraine ambassador warns of energy risk to Asia if Russia attacks

  • January 26, 2022
  • , Nikkei Asia , 3:30 p.m.
  • English Press

FRANCESCA REGALADO, Nikkei staff writer


TOKYO — Ukraine’s ambassador to Japan warned on Wednesday that a Russian attack on his country would have ripple effects on energy security, territorial disputes and infrastructure projects in Asia.


Sergiy Korsunsky likened Russia’s large military buildup on its border with Ukraine to Chinese incursions around Taiwan and Japan’s Senkaku Islands. “It is not an issue of particular territory, or particular territorial claim from one country to another,” Korsunsky said in a briefing at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan. “It’s a matter of principle that no force should be used to change the borders of other nations.”


Korsunsky claimed that a protracted conflict between Russia and Ukraine would risk embroiling Central Asia, endangering China’s regional ambitions. “I am sure that it is not in China’s interest, taking into account this concept of One Belt, One Road,” he said, referring to Beijing’s efforts to build a trade and infrastructure network stretching from Asia to Europe.


He also warned of danger for Western Europe if Ukraine’s nuclear reactors and gas pipelines are harmed by Russian missiles, which have been spotted at the border in satellite images. “If it is impossible to avoid serious harm to infrastructure — who will be responsible for those 15 nuclear power plants?” he said, citing the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.


Energy disruptions in Europe, he stressed, would be felt far away.


“When you have an energy crisis in Europe, that means we have an energy crisis in Asia simultaneously” he said. “Because if Europe feels the necessity to buy more gas … they go to Qatar and they ask [for] more gas, and Qatar will choose supply to Europe or to Asia.”


Ukraine has warily eyed the presence of Russian forces on its eastern border since 2014, after protesters favoring European Union membership ousted a pro-Moscow government in Kyiv. But the amassing of some 100,000 Russian troops since November has led Kyiv and Western intelligence officials to suspect Moscow is preparing for a long-term assault, despite Kremlin denials.


Korsunsky said he believes a “full-scale war is very, very, very difficult to expect” but added that “we may see more localized conflict.”


A Russian soldier sits atop a T-72B3 tank during drills in Russia’s Rostov region, near Ukraine, in December.   © Reuters

The ambassador insisted Kyiv was committed to a peaceful resolution through the Minsk process — an attempt to facilitate dialogue toward resolving tensions. “We are not going to attack anybody, neither Donetsk nor Lugansk,” Korsunsky said, pointing to Ukrainian regions occupied by pro-Russian separatists.


At the same time, he said: “We are not afraid. Absolutely not. If you talk to people in Kyiv, if you talk to people in Kharkiv, in other cities in Ukraine, they’re not afraid. We are now preparing [for] territorial defense.”


Other countries are scurrying to make contingency plans. Japan has raised its warning for Ukraine, recommending its nationals evacuate in case the situation escalates.


“We are urging the Japanese citizens in Ukraine to use commercial flights while they are available at the moment to depart the country,” Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told reporters on Tuesday.

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