People attend the anniversary of the 77th anniversary of atomic bombing in Hiroshima, Japan, on Saturday. AFP
Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, and, shortly after, Russian President Vladimir Putin had obliquely raised the possibility of a nuclear strike. The conflict has also heightened concerns about the safety of Ukraine's nuclear plants.
On Saturday, as cicadas shrilled in the heavy summer air, the Peace Bell sounded and the crowd, including Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who is from Hiroshima, observed a moment of silence at the exact time the bomb exploded.
"At the start of this year, the five nuclear-weapon states issued a joint statement: 'Nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,'" Matsui added.
Fumio Kishida delivers a speech during the 77th anniversary of atomic bombing in Hiroshima, Japan, on Saturday. AP
"Why do they not attempt to fulfil their promises? Why do some even hint at using nuclear weapons?"
On Thursday, Russian ambassador to Japan Mikhail Galuzin offered flowers at a memorial stone in the park and told reporters his nation would never use nuclear weapons.
Kishida, who has chosen Hiroshima as the site of next year's Group of Seven summit, called on the world to abandon nuclear weapons.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres joined the thousands packed into the Peace Park in the centre of the city to mark the anniversary of the bombing that killed 140,000 before the end of 1945, only the second time a UN secretary general has taken part in the annual ceremony.
Hiroshima mayor Kazumi Matsui, whose city this year did not invite the Russian ambassador to the ceremony, was more pointed and critical of Moscow's military actions in Ukraine.
Antonio Guterres lays a wreath at the cenotaph for the atomic bombing victims in Hiroshima, Japan. AP
"In invading Ukraine, the Russian leader, elected to protect the lives and property of his people, is using them as instruments of war, stealing the lives and livelihoods of civilians in a different country," Matsui said.
"Around the world, the notion that peace depends on nuclear deterrence gains momentum," Matsui added.
"These errors betray humanity's determination, born of our experiences of war, to achieve a peaceful world free from nuclear weapons. To accept the status quo and abandon the ideal of peace maintained without military force is to threaten the very survival of the human race."
At 8:15am on Aug 6, 1945, the US B-29 warplane Enola Gay dropped a bomb nicknamed "Little Boy" and obliterated the city with an estimated population of 350,000. Thousands more died later from injuries and radiation-related illnesses.
Nagasaki was flattened in an atomic inferno three days after Hiroshima — twin nuclear attacks that rang in the nuclear age and gave Japan the bleak distinction of being the only country to be struck by atomic weapons.
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