Russian Parliament Speaker Calls for Tribunal Over Hiroshima and Nagasaki Bombings

An international tribunal should be set up to investigate the US atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, according to Sergey Naryshkin, speaker of Russia's Duma, or lower house of parliament, Russian state news agency Itar-Tass reports.

Speaking at an event in Moscow's State Institute of International Relations, commemorating the 70th anniversary of the bombings on Wednesday evening, Naryshkin, one of Russia's most influential officials and a member of President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party, criticised international law experts, intellectuals, historians and military science experts for failing to come to a definitive stance in the aftermath of the Second World War on whether the use of atomic weapons against Japan was acceptable.

"Nobody should allow themselves to forget the tragedy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki," Naryshkin said. He added that if those responsible for the bombings were not punished "there could be very, very serious consequences."

Russia currently has a nuclear arsenal of around 4,500 warheads—the second largest in the world after the U.S.—after the two countries competed in a nuclear arms race during the Cold War. The then-Soviet Union brought the world to the brink of nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Putin recently announced that 40 new intercontinental missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads would be deployed this year.

The Duma speaker went on to accuse the U.S. of trying to whitewash the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki for the sake of their own "national prestige" and reputation, likening them to the operations which had been the subject of international tribunals such as the crimes committed by the Japanese military regime and the Nazis.

War crimes committed by winning sides in the Second World War is a contentious issue as the USSR's Red Army is also alleged to have committed atrocities, which have not been the subject of a tribunal. One of the most notable examples of this is the so called Katyn massacre, in which thousands of captured Polish officers were executed near Smolensk, after the Soviet Union and Germany invaded the country from either side.

The Kremlin denied culpability at the time and it was not until the fall of the Soviet Union that president Mikhail Gorbachev handed Poland papers which "indirectly but convincingly" proved the Soviet secret police was behind the executions.

The Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings remain the first and only instances of the use of nuclear weapons in warfare. In the space of three days in August 1945, U.S. forces dropped atomic bombs over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The instant impact devastated around a third of both cities and eventually killed a total of 135,000 people. The BBC reported at the time that U.S. forces also dropped leaflets in other parts of Japan, warning that similar attacks would follow across the country if Japan's emperor Hirohito did not officially surrender. On 14 August, Japan surrendered, ending the Second World War with Allied victory.

"From my point of view," said Naryshkin, who also heads Russia's Historical Society, "one thing is indisputable—the method chosen by the USA in 1945, was not founded on humanitarian considerations nor on military necessity."

Naryshkin conceded that the Japanese regime had committed atrocities against civilians in China, Korea and other states in the Far East during the Second World War, but argued that "humanity gave a civilised response to such behaviour, such as the Tokyo and Khabarovsk tribunals," referring to the war crimes trials against Japan's military leadership.

"However the civilian population of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had no relation to these [war] crimes," Naryshkin added. "[The bombings] have not become the subject of an international tribunal so far. But when it comes to crimes against humanity there is no statute of limitations."

Last month world governments appealed to the U.N. to determine who was responsible for downing the civilian airplane MH17 over eastern Ukraine last summer through an international tribunal. On that occasion Russia used its position as a veto-wielding member of the U.N. Security Council to block the proposal. Earlier the Kremlin issued a statement criticising the impartiality of the international investigation into the downing of the plane, as Western intelligence suspect that the jet was shot down by pro-Russian rebels, possibly using a Russian-made Buk missile.

Naryshkin also compared U.S.-led air operations in Yugoslavia in the 1990s and subsequently in Iraq, Libya and Syria to the atomic bombings in 1945, listing them as further examples of Western "disregard for human life."

Another Russian member of parliament from president Vladimir Putin's United Russia party, Franz Klintsevich, told Tass that he is already preparing to table an appeal from Russia's Afghan war veteran society to the Ministry of Defence, asking for an international tribunal to be set up into the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.