By Yu Runze, Sina English
Russia will send two navy vessels to the disputed Kuril Islands in the Pacific to honor Soviet sailors, the Defence Ministry said on August 14, 2012.
The Russian Defence Ministry said the large landing ship Admiral Nevelskoi and the tugboat Kalar will visit Kunashir Island, Etorofu Island and Paramushir Island to take part in ceremonies in honor of Soviet sailors who died there at the end of WWII.
The islands dispute has already strained relations between the two countries since World War Two, when Soviet forces occupied the four islands at the southern end of the Kuril chain. Japan says the islands are part of its territory and has urged Moscow to give them back.
Moscow, however, snubbed Tokyo's territory demands. The Soviet forces occupied Sakhalin Island and Kuril Islands in August 1945. And the Soviet Union amended its constitution and, instead, claimed that Sakhalin Island and Kuril Islands are part of its territory.
Tokyo disagrees with Moscow’s claim. Japan also dismissed Russia’s proposal of handing over Khabomai island and Shikotan Island to Japan, because the size of these two islands only accounted 7% of the four islands. Russia and Japan haven’t signed the peace treaty nor has defined sovereignty of four disputed Pacific islands, which are called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia. Dmitry Medvedev made the first visit to the islands as Russian President in 2010 and made a second landing on July 3 as prime minister, which angered Japan.