Two support groups for soldiers held prisoner in Siberia after World War II have lodged a protest over Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s failure to bring up their calls for redress and an apology from Moscow during his visit to Russia earlier this month.

“Is it all right to neglect the human rights of former detainees who are now over 80 years old on average, for the sake of (negotiations on) the return of the (Russian-held islands off Hokkaido) and for dialogue with North Korea?” the groups asked in a statement.

The groups, formed by Japanese who were forcefully taken to Siberian prison camps after the war, said they wrote to Koizumi on Jan. 2, calling for thorough investigations as well as an apology from him and Russian President Vladimir Putin and their unpaid wages.

Koizumi made the four-day visit beginning Jan. 9 to seek progress in pending bilateral issues, such as the long-standing territorial dispute over the islands, and efforts to obtain Moscow’s cooperation to help achieve a breakthrough in stalled talks with North Korea.

Koizumi did not bring up the detention issue during meetings with Putin and his close aide, Konstantin Pulikovskii, the groups’ statement said.

“If the Japanese government thinks the Russian side bears no responsibility regarding the detention and forced labor in Siberia, then the Japanese government, as the country that deployed the (soldiers), should redress the unpaid wages on (Russia’s) behalf,” the groups said.

The groups also said the Japanese government is trying to forget that “over 600,000 people were abducted and forcibly taken” to Siberia over half a century ago, in spite of measures it took recently to support Japanese abducted by North Korea.

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