Russian deputy prime ministers visit island claimed by Japan

Two Russian deputy prime ministers visited one of the four Russian-held islands claimed by Japan, apparently to prepare for the introduction of a free zone.

Dmitry Grigorenko and Marat Khusnullin arrived on Etorofu Island on Friday morning.

The Russian government said the visit was aimed at inspecting a clinic, fish processing plant and other facilities that are expected to install new government-funded equipment.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced in September a plan to create a free zone to attract foreign investment to what Russia calls the Kuril Islands. They include four islands that Japan claims as its northern territories.

Grigorenko, in charge of legal proceedings, told Russian media on Thursday that the special preferential zone could be introduced in January 2023 at the earliest.

This is the first known visit by senior Russian officials to an island claimed by the Japanese since Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio took office earlier this month.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno Hirokazu said the Japanese government has lodged a protest with Russia.
He said the visit went against Japan’s consistent stance on the Northern Territories and was unacceptable.

The Japanese government maintains that the islands are an integral part of Japanese territory. He says the islands were illegally occupied after World War II.

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