Photo/Illutration Hiromu Morishita describes his 2004 visit to Ukraine and Russia when he talked about his experience as a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. (Tabito Fukutomi)

Survivors of the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki expressed outrage over President Vladimir Putin’s boast of his nation’s nuclear capabilities as Russia went to war against neighboring Ukraine.

In a veiled warning to the United States and its allies not to intervene in the conflict, Putin reminded the world that Russia was a major nuclear power.

“I cannot but feel a real sense of danger at the light manner in which he made that statement,” said Hiromu Morishita, 91.

He was joined by other hibakusha organizations in condemning Putin for his comment.

Morishita visited both Ukraine and Russia in 2004 to talk to university students about the horrors of atomic bombing.

He was 1.5 kilometers from ground zero when the United States detonated an atomic bomb over Hiroshima in western Japan on Aug. 6, 1945, killing thousands of people in an instant. It marked the first use of an atomic bomb in warfare, and was followed by another three days later that leveled the Japanese city of Nagasaki.

Morishita suffered severe facial burns as well as to his neck in the attack.

One of the cities he visited in 2004 was Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine, where missiles rained down Feb. 24 after Putin went ahead with his threat to invade.

About 200 university students gathered to listen to Morishita’s remarks, with some admitting they had never realized the scale of the tragedy that unfolded in Hiroshima.

On another occasion, Morishita met with survivors of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, which resulted in tearful exchanges.

He also talked to students in Moscow and recalled that they listened intently to his recollections of the bombing. Morishita noted that one student was horrified by what he heard, adding that ordinary people going about their daily lives inevitably became victims whenever armed conflict flares.

“There is no difference between Russians and Ukrainians, they are both humans after all, so I believe they will understand each other as long as they thoroughly communicate with each other,” he said.

Hibakusha organizations also weighed in on Putin’s comment.

“It is unforgivable that he (Putin) is using nuclear weapons as a tool to threaten others,” said Terumi Tanaka, 89, who co-chairs Nihon Hidankyo (Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations) and survived the Aug. 9, 1945, bombing of Nagasaki.

Any war that involves the use of nuclear weapons poses the risk of mankind’s destruction, Tanaka said.

Tomoyuki Mimaki, 79, who took over as head of the association of A- and H-bomb sufferers in Hiroshima Prefecture after longtime incumbent Sunao Tsuboi died last year at age 96, said poignantly: “The pleas we have been making are not reaching the world. We must have more people understand the realities of nuclear weapons for our message to have an effect.”

Kunihiko Sakuma, 77, who heads another organization of Hiroshima hibakusha, said, “(Putin) has absolutely no understanding of how awful nuclear weapons are.”

(This article was written by Tabito Fukutomi, Roppei Tsuda and Shohei Okada.)