Russia vows $0.5 bln for Kurils as deputy PM visits

15th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russia on Sunday vowed to give the Pacific Kuril Islands over $0.5 billion in extra funding, as Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov visited the chain which is the subject of a longstanding dispute with Japan.

The Kurils will receive an additional 16 billion rubles ($570 million), the governor of the local Sakhalin region Alexander Khorshavin said at a meeting on their economic development up to 2015 chaired by Ivanov.

Most of the money would come from the federal budget and represents a doubling of the funds already pledged to improve development and investment on the isolated archipelago up to 2015, Russian news agencies quoted Khorshavin as saying.

The meeting took place in the town of Reidovo in the island of Iturup.

Russia is seeking to show it has a long-term plan to create a viable economy on the Kurils at a time of high tensions in the dispute with Japan dating back to World War II over their status.

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

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