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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Senators Up Stakes in Kurils Feud

The Federation Council on Tuesday called on President Dmitry Medvedev to suspend visa-free travel between the Kuril Islands and Japan in an escalating dispute over who owns the islands.

Japanese tourists frequently visit the Kurils, where many of their ancestors were buried long ago and which were seized by the Soviet Union in the waning days of World War II.

Japan’s parliament declared the four southern Kuril islands — Itupur, Kunashir, Shikotan and Habomai — “primordial Japanese islands” last month, igniting a furor in the Russian political establishment.

The Federation Council senators approved a resolution Tuesday that denounced the Japanese declaration as  “a spiteful gesture toward Russians, who are always friendly to Japan” and asked Medvedev to suspend the visa-free travel.

Medvedev will meet with Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso at the Group of Eight summit in Italy later this week (Story, Page 7).

The Foreign Ministry has issued a diplomatic note condemning the Japanese vote, while several senior State Duma deputies have called on the Kremlin to suspend ties with Japan until its parliament disowns its declaration.

The dispute over the ownership of the Kurils has prevented Moscow and Tokyo from signing a peace treaty formally ending World War II.