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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lavrov Visits Kuril Islands

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited two of the four Russian-held islands claimed by Japan on Sunday in an apparent assertion of sovereignty over them ahead of a G8 summit.

Lavrov visited the Kunashiri and Shikotan islands on Sunday in the first trip by a Russian foreign minister to the southern end of the Kuril Islands -- known as the Northern Territories in Japan, Japanese public broadcaster NHK said. Kyodo News agency carried a similar report.

His visit was apparently intended to demonstrate Moscow's position that the four islands are Russian territory ahead of a planned meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Group of Eight summit in Germany this week, Kyodo said.

Lavrov visited the two islands to inspect progress in development programs in the Far East, NHK said.

First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov visited Etorofu, one of the four islands, in April, Kyodo said.

Russia captured the islands from Japan during the closing days of World War II. Tokyo has demanded that Moscow cede all four islands. The dispute has kept the two countries from signing a treaty formally ending their World War II hostilities.