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The Foreign Ministry has released the results of its first major survey conducted in Russia on the attitudes of people there toward Japan.

Some 82 percent of Russians polled said they are aware that a territorial dispute exists between Tokyo and Moscow over four islands off Hokkaido, while 48 percent said Russia should retain sovereignty over the islands.

Although 42 percent of respondents said the issue of sovereignty should be mutually resolved, only 3 percent said the islands should be returned to Japan, according to the ministry.

By region, 61 percent of respondents in the Russian Far East and 74 percent on Sakhalin were adamant that the islands are part of Russia, which suggests sentiments over sovereignty of the islands are stronger among residents living closer to them.

Regarding their opinions of Japan, 45 percent of the respondents expressed a liking for the country, while 24 percent said they partly like and partly dislike it.

Just 2 percent of those polled voiced outright dislike for Japan.

Asked with which country they felt the biggest affinity, 19 percent of respondents said France, 14 percent said Germany, 12 percent said the United States and 11 percent said Japan, which ranked fourth.

The ministry conducted the survey in March on 3,300 Russians aged 18 or older.

The four islands off northeastern Hokkaido — Kunashiri, Etorofu and Shikotan islands and the Habomai islets — were seized from Japan by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II.

The territorial dispute has prevented the two countries from concluding a peace treaty.

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