Russia will protect security of Kuril Islands, says FM Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. © Evgenya Novozhenina
Russia will protect its easternmost territories – the Kuril Islands – and continue to develop their infrastructure, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview with Chinese, Japanese and Mongolian mass media.

As far as the Kuril Islands are concerned – these are the Eastern border regions of the Russian Federation. We put special attention to normal development of these Russian territories and wholly develop them, considering the needs of Russian citizens who reside there,” the minister told reporters.

He added that planning the defenses and strengthening the military infrastructure of border regions were natural actions for any nation. “These are the Far-Eastern borderlands of our country and we must provide security there. We will apply all necessary attention to this task,” Lavrov emphasized.

The statement was made in reply to a reporter’s request to comment on the alleged increase of Russia’s military presence on the Kuril Islands in recent months.

READ MORE: Japan: Putin’s visit to Tokyo may settle Kuril Islands dispute

Russia and Japan have remained at loggerheads over the Kunashir, Shikotan, Iturup and arches of the Habomai Islands since the end of WWII as Tokyo refuses to sign a peace treaty without claiming sovereignty over what it calls its Northern Territories. Moscow insists the islands became a part of the USSR after the war and therefore Russian sovereignty over this territory cannot be revised.

The conflict is a result of loose definitions used in the agreements signed at the end of the war. The international community inclines towards the Russian position, as in March 2014 the UN maritime commission confirmed that 52,000 sq km in the middle of the Sea of Okhotsk in the Far East must be considered the Russian continental shelf. This decision is only possible if all of the Kuril Islands are regarded as Russian territory.

In May 2015, Japanese authorities signaled they would like Russian President Vladimir Putin to finally resolve the territorial dispute and sign a peace treaty. The Kremlin said it would welcome dialogue, but added that attempts to claim sovereignty over the islands makes Japan the only country that questions the results of WWII and Article 107 of the UN Statute that maintains that everything done by the winning nations in World War II is “sacrosanct and inviolable.”