• Kyodo

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A Japanese man who was questioned by authorities on the Russian-held island of Kunashiri has returned to Hokkaido.

Shiro Sato, an interpreter for a tour group on a visa-free exchange program, was detained by Russian authorities after ¥4 million in undeclared cash was allegedly found in his baggage as he was attempting to leave the island about a week ago.

Sato, a resident of Kanagawa Prefecture, was welcomed by his friends and others when he arrived Sunday in the city of Nemuro aboard a vessel carrying another group under the visa-free exchange program.

“We have negotiated (with the Russian side) through diplomatic channels,” said an official in the Russian division of the Foreign Ministry’s European Affairs Bureau. “What matters is that he was innocent, though we decline to comment further.”

Kunashiri is one of four Russian-held islands and islets off Hokkaido claimed by Japan. The islands are called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia.

The Soviet Union occupied the islands after Japan’s surrender in World War II on Aug. 15, 1945. The territorial row has prevented Japan and Russia from concluding a postwar peace treaty.

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