The mayors of the Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki called on Vladimir Putin not to detonate his nuclear weapons in a joint letter last week.
Writing four days after Russia’s Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Hiroshima mayor Kazumi Matsui and his Nagasaki counterpart Tomihisa Taue said their cities were “outraged” by his conduct and pleaded for “peaceful solutions” instead.
The only two cities in the world to ever be targeted by atomic weapons in an armed conflict, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were nuked in 1945 by the US as part of World War 2.
Their warning came four days before Russian troops attacked Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, Zaoporizhzhia.
What did the letter say?
The leaders said: “We are writing this letter in strong opposition to Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine and rhetoric implying the use of nuclear weapons.”
“Such conduct is a violation of the ardent wishes of the survivors of the atomic bombings, who have been calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons, to ‘never let anyone in the world go through the same suffering’,” they continued.
The mayors also pointed out that Russia’s invasion came shortly after January’s joint declaration to the world made by the five nuclear states – France, Russia, UK, China and the US – that a “nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought”.
The letter declared that the behaviour was “deeply disappointing”, and said: “We must not allow there to be a third site of a wartime atomic bombing after Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”
In this Aug. 9, 1945, file photo, a giant column of smoke rises more than 60,000 feet into the air, after the second atomic bomb ever used in warfare explodes over the Japanese port town of Nagasaki.
What happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
The US targeted Hiroshima in August 1945, months after World War 2 in Europe was considered over due to the Nazis’ surrender.
The Allies had called for Japan to surrender so that the global conflict could come to an end, but it ignored the warning and so – after the UK consented – the States dropped a bomb (dubbed Little Boy) on Hiroshima.
A flash of light and a giant mushroom cloud erupted, squashing buildings in a 2.5km radius.
The city was flattened and an estimated 80,000 were killed immediately as a result. A further 35,000 people were injured and it wiped out 52,00 buildings.
Radiation sickness meant many more people died in the years afterwards, believed to have taken the death toll up to 135,000.
Three days later Nagasaki was also targeted, this time by a larger nuke nicknamed Fat Man – up to 80,000 died overall, both from the exposure and long-term consequences.
Japan surrendered on August 15, just six days after the bombing of Nagasaki.
Will Putin use nuclear weapons?
Pundits have not been able to agree on what the Russian president will do next but there are no indications just yet that Putin will respond to military setbacks in Ukraine by using its nuclear weapons supply.
However, he did raise international alarm after he announced Russia’s nuclear forces would be put on a “special regime of combat duty”.
It’s thought that this was mainly to deter Nato’s interference in Ukraine.
Russia also singled out foreign secretary Liz Truss for supposedly making “absolutely unacceptable” comments about a Nato intervention in Ukraine, prompting the Kremlin to up nuclear tensions.
Downing Street dismissed the claims as an intervention “designed to distract from the situation on the ground”.
Concerns over nuclear reactions spiked again after Russia attacked the Ukrainian power plant Zaoporizhzhia, home to six of the country’s 15 nuclear reactors, last Friday.