Youth movement demands apology from Tokyo over flag desecration

Young Guard activists held a rally near the Japanese embassy in Moscow on Tuesday to condemn anti-Russian actions over disputed islands.

­The youth movement, called Molodaya Gvardia in Russian, protested near Japanese embassy against the so-called Day of the Northern Territories, held in Japan on Monday, in which activists from Japanese radical groups shouted nationalist slogans and defiled the Russian flag. Japan’s Prime Minister Naoto Kan led another rally, criticizing the Russian leadership for recent trips to the disputed territory.

The South Kuril Islands, incorporated by the Soviet Union after WWII, is indivisible Russian land, Young Guard activists said, picketing Japan’s embassy in Moscow. They demanded that Tokyo apologize for the desecration of the flag and take measures against radical anti-Russian groups.

To be better understood, the activists translated their slogans into Japanese. During the action, scholars delivered a lecture about the history of the territorial dispute. The protests near the embassy started on Monday, following the rallies held in Japan. Later this week, a similar action is planned near the Japanese general consulate in Khabarovsk.

Meanwhile, speaker of the Russian parliament’s upper house Sergey Mironov may become another top official to visit the Kuril Islands. “The year before last I flew there, and maybe I will do this again in a year,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

Japan’s leadership has been outraged by a series of visits by the Russian president and ministers to the Kurils, which Tokyo considers its land. According to Mironov, Japan should blame itself for its position. “It has nothing to do with us, because it is our territory,” he said, adding that speaker of the State Duma Boris Gryzlov may also visit the islands in the future.

Kan described Dmitry Medvedev’s trip to the Kurils, made last November, as “an unforgivable outrage.” Russia’s Foreign Ministry sent a note of protest to Tokyo on Monday, citing the premier’s “undiplomatic statements” and unacceptable behavior of Japan’s nationalists.

According to Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Japanese top officials are “stooping to the level” of radical groups.

­Read Andrey Kortunov's column on the issue here