• Kyodo

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The government has sent a senior diplomat to Russia to coordinate Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Japan later this year, government sources said Friday.

Hajime Hayashi, director-general of the Foreign Ministry’s European Affairs Bureau, is also expected to discuss a visit to Russia by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, which would be a precondition for Putin’s visit to Japan, the sources said.

The diplomat is expected to discuss with Russian officials Japan’s longtime push for the return of four isles off Hokkaido — Kunashiri, Etorofu, Shikotan and the Habomai group of islets — that the Soviet Union seized shortly after Japan lost World War II in August 1945.

He is also expected to discuss sanctions Japan imposed against Russia for annexing the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine, the sources said.

In telephone talks with Putin on June 24, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe confirmed his plan to visit Japan by the end of this year.