Russia’s sovereignty over Kurils cannot be questioned – head senator

© Ekaterina Chesnokova
Russia’s upper house speaker has said that Russian sovereignty over the Kuril Islands cannot be questioned because these territories became Russian territory as a result of WWII and this fact is stated in international legal acts.

As for the Kuril Islands – their belonging may be questionable for Japan, but not for Russia. They became our territory as a result of the Second World War and this is registered by international documents. Therefore, Russia’s sovereignty over these islands cannot be doubted,” Valentina Matviyenko told reporters.

However, the Federation Council speaker added that Russian authorities are ready for a compromise in talks over the peace treaty with Japan so that a final agreement is acceptable for both countries. She added that the success of negotiations depended on how much realism Japanese authorities and diplomats show.

They should be fully aware of the fact that there are things that Russia will never allow. Restricting Russia’s sovereignty over Kurils or their transfer under Japanese jurisdiction is one such thing. This is the position of not just the Russian leaders, but of the whole Russian people,” Matviyenko said.

She also noted that strengthening of cooperation between Russia and Japan was a guarantee of better trust between the nations which, in turn, would bring closer the compromise in the territorial row.

The conflict between Russia and Japan over the Kuril Islands has lingered since the end of World War II, when a vague reparations agreement allowed Tokyo to claim that the Soviet Union should give back at least part of the archipelago, received as part of the post-war settlement. The Soviet Union insisted its sovereignty extended to the whole island chain – a position the Russian Federation has continued to take.

Japan sees the issue as significant and extremely politically charged. In recent years Japanese nationalists have started to mark September 7 as Northern Territories Day, and the country’s diplomats routinely protest when Russian officials visit the islands. Russia however has always insisted that any change in the status of the Kurils would mean a reassessment of the results of World War II, which is expressly banned by international treaties.

In latest statement on the issue made in early September this year, President Vladimir Putin said that even though Russian authorities saw signing a peace treaty with Japan as a priority, the territorial dispute over the Kuril Islands would not be subject to revisal.

We do not trade territories,” Putin said when asked if he was ready to consider “giving up” one of the Kuril Islands in order to reach a political resolution and greater economic cooperation with Japan.