Russia plans to develop disputed Kuril Islands

Updated: 2015-07-24 10:35


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Russia plans to develop disputed Kuril Islands

Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) chairs a meeting with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (L) and Finance Minister Anton Siluanov at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia, July 23, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]

MOSCOW - Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday that he ordered the government to draft a 10-year development plan of the Kuril Islands, which Japan refers to as the Northern Territories.

"We are studying the federal projects...on Kuril Islands for 2016-2025. This is a unique place...first of all because of its geographical natural resources with a colossal economic potential, " Medvedev said at a government meeting.

He noted that "the financing for the 10-year program amounts to roughly 70 billion rubles ($1.22 billion), including around 28 billion rubles ($491 million) from the federal budget."

Medvedev said that Russia has been actively restoring both civilian and military infrastructure on the four disputed islets, according to an official transcript published on the internet.

"The (Kuril) Islands have played and will be playing a role of our frontier defenders," Medvedev said, adding that the regional government must fully support the Russian armed forces deployed there.

Meanwhile, the development project should improve the living conditions and attract more residents, while strengthening transport connectivity of the islands with Russian mainland is one of the most important missions, according to Medvedev.

The prime minister also said he planned to visit Kuril Islands to check the real situation there, and called on other Russian government officials to follow his steps.

Japan and Russia are at odds over the series of islands north off Japan's Hokkaido, which keep the two sides from signing a peace treaty since the end of the Second World War.

The possible visit of Medvedev aroused the irritation of the Japanese embassy to Russia, as one official at the embassy said later in the day that such a trip would be unacceptable for Japan.

"If the prime minister visits the Northern Territories, it would contradict Japanese government's policy and hurt the soul of the Japanese people," Interfax news agency quoted the official as saying.

In November of 2010, then president Medvedev visited the islands and became the first Russian leader to carry out such a trip.