The Kuril islands: Are they Russian or not? Do we have to fear loss of the islands —«Russian Spring» review (PHOTOS, VIDEO)
Russian-Japanese relations development stirred the society and world cimmunity up as Japan is America’s traditional ally in Pacific region.
This has become particularly observable when Vladimir Putin met Shinzo Abe on December 15 this year at a resort not far from Japanese Nagato.
It is characteristic that Western media tend to cover that issue mostly critically: when they do not detect any serious problems between the two countries they replay Kurils theme agian and again.
Of course loss (even partial) of such economically developed and politically stable partner as Japan is crucial for the West. So it’s no surprise that Moscow-Tokio relations’ prospects are being criticized harshly by the Western politicians and journalists.
It's curious that quite a number of Russian journalists and writers who speak perfect Russian and have plenty of news and analytical materials full of Russian athorities’ official speech doubt these prospects.
Aleksey Melnikov, “Yabloko” political party member
In our fearful, overconfident, hypocritical society which is deeply rotten with “Crimea is ours” idea, headed by those temporary rulers it turns out that an agreement with Japan is impossible. The agreement which is about transferring the islands with “traditional” Russian names like Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and Habomai to Japan.
But in fact things are a little bit different. According to the experts it is the first time in seventy years when Moscow and Tokio have managed to discuss certain prospects of mutual relations development beyond the context of sovereignty – the traditional sticking point between the two states — four Southern Kuril islands where according to the agreements reached by the countries a special joint cooperation regime is to be introduced. That regime will be based upon mutually benefitial cooperation principles.
Moreover Russian and Japanese leaders intend to hold a range of meetings in 2017. They plan to solve three key problems: economic cooperation programs implementation, renewal of cooperation under the so called “2 plus 2” format (i.e. on the level of Foreign and Defence ministries) and concluding a peace treaty.
Understanding extremely negative attitude of the most Russian citizens towards mere prospect of transferring even a small part of the Russian territories to its neighbours a few representatives of the so called liberal opposition are trying to advertise themselves with increasing critics of the Russian authorities after it has transpired that borderzone regime had been selectively limited in the Southern Kurils.
That information was presented as if it was the first step to giving the islands away.
A tweet by Mikhail Khodorkovsky reads: The islands are sailing away. FSB has partially uplifted borderzone regime in the Southern Kurils.
Title reads: Putin is preparing Kurils transfer to Japan
Corresponding amendments have really been made into Russian legislation including Russian FSB’s decree dated April 14, 2006 № 149 «On borderzone limits in Sakhalin region». This introduced new borderzone areas on several disctricts of Kunashir, Iturup, Paramushir and Shumshu, as well as on Moneron and Tyuleniy islands.
The introduced regime does not cover city of Kurilsk, Iturup airport territory and Kurilsk – Iturup airport motorway. In Yuzhno-Kurilskiy urban district urban settlement Yuzhno-Kurilsk is also excluded.
In Severo-Kurilskiy urban district Severo-Kurilsk city is excluded as well as 2 km wide shorefront on Paramushir island, 0,4 km wide shorefront on Shumshu island from Solnechnaya river banks, Bitobi lake and channels running into Sea of Okhotsk.
Even if we look at these borderzone regime changes superficially there is a question — aren't there too many provisions and exclusions for «preparation for islands transfer»?
If we look at the topic closely everything fits together — it is not abot free passage for Japanese citizens to Russian territory. It is merely about solving those problems which locals inevitably have living just off the state border.
Since the aforementioned amendments came in force (i.e. since December 4, 2016 ) there is no need to order special pass to enter the territories listed above. However passage procedure remained the same for borderzone areas.
So the whole matter is not about changes neither in international-legal field nor in political one. The changes affect administrative field only.
Similar problems exist along the entire length of Russia’s borders affecting mostly local inhabitants. These problems are hardly worth world’s attention.
So Putin’s proposal to «introduce free borderzone travel regime in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk region and Hokkaido» made to his Japanese counterpart during December visit looks understandable and reasonable now against constant complaints of Kurils’ residents about daily complicated approval procedures required even for harvesting, snow shoveling and cattle grazing.
To put an end to political speculations on possible transfer of the Kuril islands to Japan it is enough to cite Putin who told Bloomberg that he was ready to find a solution for the existing problem «together with our Japanese friends». But when asked about possibility of exchanging islands to economic cooperation between the countries Putin told that «Russia did not sell its territories».
«Russian Spring» expert group