MOSCOW (Kyodo) Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has signed into law a bill designating Sept. 2 as the anniversary of the end of World War II, effectively stipulating it as a day to commemorate the Soviet Union’s victory over Japan, the presidential executive office said Sunday.

The Russian move to designate a victory over Japan day could be seen as an attempt by the country to justify its effective control of four islands off Hokkaido seized by Soviet forces near the end of the war. Japan has demanded the return of the territories.

Russia celebrates the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany on May 9 each year with a large-scale military parade in Moscow’s Red Square. The law establishes a new commemoration day in Russia.

Japan formally surrendered to the Allied Powers on Sept. 2, 1945, with a signing ceremony aboard the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

Japan had lobbied against the law behind the scenes. The formal name of the new commemoration day under the law is “the anniversary of the end of World War II,” toned down from the anniversary of victory over Japan.

The Russian government could celebrate the anniversary on a large scale, mainly in the Far East, as this year marks the 65th anniversary of the end of the war.

The upper house of the Russian legislature approved the bill July 14 after the lower house endorsed it July 8.

With regard to the disputed islands, Japan maintains that Soviet forces occupied the territories from Aug. 29 to Sept. 5, 1945, after ignoring its nonaggression pact with Japan and declaring war on the country on Aug. 9, 1945.

Sergei Mironov, chairman of Russia’s Federation Council, or upper house, has meanwhile said it is a “historical fact” that the Soviet victory over Japan led to the end of World War II.

Sakhalin, which governs the disputed islands, had long called on the state government to enact legislation to designate a day to commemorate the anniversary of the Soviet victory over Japan.

The explanation of the bill said the Soviet military “liberated” the territories.

A bill to designate the anniversary also cleared the lower and upper houses in 1998, but then President Boris Yeltsin vetoed the it in consideration of bilateral relations.

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