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Russia has agreed to allow Japanese visitors to visit the Russian-held islands off Hokkaido without submitting disembarkation cards, the Foreign Ministry said Friday.

The agreement puts an end to a dispute that has dragged on for months between Tokyo and Moscow over procedures for a visa-free visit program for former Japanese and current Russian residents on the Russian-held islands claimed by Japan — Kunashiri, Etorofu, Shikotan and the Habomai islet group.

Japan has instead agreed to present a list of Japanese visitors and their signatures, ministry officials said.

The agreement paves the way for the two countries to conduct the visa-free visit program in fiscal 2009, which started April 1, the officials said.

In January, Japan rejected Russia’s demand that Japanese government officials on a humanitarian mission submit disembarkation cards before arriving on Kunashiri Island, and their vessel returned home without providing aid supplies.

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