Kremlin youth to 'plant flag' on disputed island
Pro-Kremlin youth activists said Thursday they would later this month place a Russian flag on a 10-metre-high flag pole on the southernmost tip of a Pacific island claimed by Japan.
In a move set to exacerbate a territorial dispute with Japan over the Kuril Islands, the Molodaya Gvardia (Young Guard), the youth wing of ruling party United Russia, will set up the flag and a banner on March 15.
"The leader of Molodaya Gvardia, Timur Prokopenko, is to visit the Kurils on March 15," the spokeswoman for the group Yanina Sergeyava told AFP.
"On the southernmost point of Kunashir a Russian flag and a banner 'The Kurils are Russian territory' will be put up," she added, saying the opening ceremony would be accompanied by the Russian national anthem.
Kunashir lies just north of Japan's northern island of Hokkaido and it may be possible that in clear weather the flag will be visible from Japan.
Sergeyeva said that "unfortunately" Molodaya Gvardia's most famous member, the seductive spy Anna Chapman, would not be able to join the trip. "She has other plans and cannot fit it into her timetable."
The Kurils have been controlled by Moscow since they were seized by Soviet troops in 1945 but their status remains a major problem in Moscow-Tokyo relations.
The dispute surrounds the southernmost four islands -- known in Russian as Iturup, Shikotan, Habomai and Kunashir -- which are still claimed by Tokyo and collectively known in Japan as the Northern Territories.
The row has rumbled for years but has erupted with new intensity after President Dmitry Medvedev in November visited the islands, a trip slammed by Tokyo as an "unforgivable outrage".
© 2011 AFP