India accused of blocking military plane picking up aid for Ukrainians

The Japan Self-Defense Forces aircraft had been expected to collect aid from a UN refugees agency office in Mumbai, Tokyo says

India prevented a Japan Self-Defense Forces plane from landing in its territory on Thursday, Sanae Takaichi, a policy chief of the ruling Japanese Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), told local media on Thursday. The aircraft was scheduled to collect supplies from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Mumbai and deliver them to Europe.

“The acceptance of SDF aircraft was rejected by India, the point of loading,” Takaichi told a meeting of the party’s Policy Research Council Board. The Japanese media have reported that the move was the result of a lack of coordination, citing government sources. Takaichi also criticized Tokyo by saying “the government has not done enough groundwork.”

Neither Tokyo nor New Delhi have commented on the development so far.

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The UN refugee agency had previously requested transport for relief supplies, which were stockpiled in India and the United Arab Emirates. They were destined for Poland and Romania, which have accepted Ukrainian refugees fleeing the conflict between Moscow and Kiev.

The LDP had announced that it would help to deliver the supplies on Tuesday. The Japanese Self-Defense Forces’ C2 transport airplanes were expected to be dispatched once a week starting late April to transport the supplies. A total of 10 flights had been scheduled.

The Japanese government was expected to launch the first flight over the weekend. The move should have been approved by the LDP board and the cabinet on Thursday and Friday. Now, the operation will apparently be delayed as Tokyo has to “reconsider” its plans, Japanese media reported.

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Over five million people have fled Ukraine since the start of the Russian military operation on its territory in late February, according to the UN data. Most of them – over 2.8 million – have moved to Poland, while around 700,000 traveled to Romania. Over half a million Ukrainians also moved to Russia after the conflict began, the UN data shows.

Russia attacked its neighboring state in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols were designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.

The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.