By MARI YAMAGUCHI, Associated Press
TOKYO (AP) — Beginning with fun videos and discussions of Mario Kart racing games, two Ukrainian brothers have added a dark tone to their YouTube channel popular with young Japanese with updates from their country that bring the Japan’s harsh realities of war.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine began just after the duo, Sava Tkachov, 26, and his younger brother Yan, 20, celebrated the second anniversary of their YouTube debut with over 2 million subscribers for their Sawayan channel and the Sawayan games that Sava hosts.
The first word of war came from their father, a business consultant who had returned to kyiv two months ago just before Russian troops arrived and has stayed since to help defend his country. The siblings’ YouTube content, which was once full of pranks, jokes and action videos, has become more serious.
Worried for their 53-year-old father and their friends in Ukraine, the brothers announced in early March on their channel that they also planned to volunteer as defenders. This triggered a wave of reactions, with some supporting them and others criticizing them.
The father objected and the Tkachovs, who have no military background, dropped the idea, especially when Sava said he received long and serious messages from some of his teenage fans showing their willingness to follow the brothers in Ukraine.
“By sending messages through our channel, I made the kids want to go to war and I can’t say if that was good or bad,” Sava said at a press conference on Thursday. “But at least it was significant that they were interested in publishing it. Waging war on the front line is not the only way.
Sava, which uses the “No War” handle, has instead turned its gaming channel into an engine for charitable gaming donations and events. He collected some 3.6 million yen ($29,500) in three hours and donated entirely to the Ukrainian Embassy.
The siblings said they have also started receiving messages from parents saying their children are starting to think about peace and others thanking them for raising important social issues.
“I believe the merit of YouTube is that I can convey the actual information from the ground that my dad is sharing with us on the situation that is very up to date, and I can get that online almost immediately, so in that sense it could be much faster and more accurate than the information provided by traditional media,” said Sava.
He said his father sent videos of bombings and bodies “like in war movies”, but he couldn’t use them because they were too graphic. During a recent appearance on a YouTube talk show hosted by popular former vaccine minister Taro Kono, Sava said the brothers have been in regular communication with their father from an undisclosed location.
Japan was quick to join other industrialized countries in imposing sanctions on Russia and providing support to Ukraine.
Tokyo also sent body armor, helmets, tents, medical supplies and other non-lethal defense equipment to Ukraine as an exception to Japan’s ban on transferring military equipment to Ukraine. countries in conflict.
Japan has taken tougher action against Russia, worried about the impact of Moscow’s war on East Asia where Tokyo has faced threats from North Korea and China. In response to the sanctions, Russia suspended peace treaty talks with Japan over the disputed Kuril Islands, which Moscow has held since 1945.
Sava Tkachov, who arrived with his family in Japan aged 4 and studied at a top Japanese university, thanked his adopted country for its support but said Tokyo should stick to its role pacifist.
“Japan is the world’s first peaceful nation…and what the country is doing right now is very appropriate,” he said. “As to whether Japan should send weapons, I don’t think that’s the kind of role Japan should be playing.
Instead, he said, Japan can contribute better by continuing to call for peace and play a leadership role in Asia.
He also said that Japan could shelter many Ukrainians displaced by the war. Some may face language issues or unfamiliar food, “but I’m sure they can overcome the difficulties with the empathy of Japanese people and the spirit of Ukrainians.”
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