Japan will send gas masks, hazmat suits and drones to Ukraine to help defend the country against Russia’s invasion amid growing concern of chemical weapons use by the Russian military.
Defense minister Nobuo Kishi said on Tuesday that Japan was sending the anti-chemical-warfare equipment at the request of the Ukrainian government.
Japan last month provided bulletproof vests, helmets and other nonlethal arms equipment to Ukraine as an exception to Tokyo’s ban on arms exports to countries in conflict, saying Ukraine was being invaded. The shipment has raised controversy in Japan, whose pacifist constitution renounces war.
“Banding together with the international community and firmly taking action against Russia’s invasion, which violates international law, is extremely important from the viewpoint of our own national security as well,” Kishi said.
The government has revised its operational guideline of arms transfer to allow provisions of nonlethal equipment to Ukraine and says the new rule covers gas masks and protective gear. Japan is also sending commercially available drones that are not considered arms equipment.
Meanwhile, Britain will reportedly soon send armoured missile launchers to Ukraine after Russia started its full-scale offensive to take control of the country’s east.
The Ministry of Defence demonstrated the Stormer High Velocity Missile (HVM) launcher for Ukrainians on Salisbury Plain two weeks ago, according to, with the paper adding the 13-tonne vehicles can be flown to the war on C-17 transport planes in days.
The Stormer is manufactured by BAE Systems, needs just three people to operate it and and uses Starstreak missiles, which can be used to take down low-flying aircraft.
It comes as Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy said a “significant part of the entire Russian army” was concentrated on an offensive in the east in the mostly-Russian speaking Donbas, where Moscow-backed separatists have declared two independent republics that have been recognised by Russia.
Mr Zelenskyy has been pleading for Western powers to give him greater firepower to fight back, with Boris Johnson saying on April 7 that he was “certainly looking at what more military assistance we can give” amid reports the UK could send armoured vehicles.
On the same date, foreign secretary Liz Truss said the UK was “stepping up” the supply of arms, as she joined Nato counterparts in Brussels to hear the demands from Ukraine for more equipment.
US president Joe Biden on Wednesday approved $800m in military assistance for Ukraine, including artillery and helicopters, to bolster its defences against the expected Russian offensive in the country’s east.
Mr Johnson spoke to Mr Zelenskyy on Saturday afternoon, with a Downing Street spokesperson saying: “The prime minister paid tribute to the bravery of Ukrainian forces, who continue to valiantly defend their country’s freedom.”
Russia on Monday bombarded the western city of Lviv, where at least seven people were killed, and numerous other targets across Ukraine in what appeared to be an intensified bid to grind down the country’s defences.