A Russian man who claims to have come from one of the islands at the center of a territorial dispute between Tokyo and Moscow has been placed under protective custody in Hokkaido, the Japanese government said Monday.
The man was found in the Hokkaido town of Shibetsu, located near the coast opposite to Kunashiri island, and was put in protective custody by police on Thursday, sources familiar with the situation said.
Kunashiri is one of the four islands off Hokkaido held by Russia and claimed by Japan.
The Russian man is being questioned by the regional immigration services bureau in Sapporo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told reporters.
The man has told immigration officials that he swam to Hokkaido, the sources said. He was reportedly wearing a wet suit at the time he was found. There have also been suggestions that he is seeking asylum in a third country.
“We’ll respond appropriately by confirming the facts carefully,” Kato said.
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