Putin to avoid disputed islands

Kyodo

Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov denied Monday that President Vladimir Putin will visit one of the Russian-held islands claimed by Japan next week, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.

The report followed a Japanese politician’s claim that he heard Lev Sedikh, chief of Anama village on Shikotan, one of the islands, saying Putin could visit either Shikotan or nearby Kunashiri next Monday.

Toyama Prefectural Assembly member Hisayoshi Ono told a news conference in Nemuro, Hokkaido, that he heard of the plan Sunday while visiting Shikotan with a group of former residents.

ITAR-Tass reported Peskov as saying that while Putin has a visit to Sakhalin scheduled for next week, there are no plans for him to stop off on the Russian-held islands.

The islands — Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and the Habomai islet group — were seized by the former Soviet Union after Japan’s surrender at the end of World War II, and their sovereignty remains a point of contention between the two nations.