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​Russia builds up, modernizes military on disputed Kuril Islands

Published time: April 19, 2014 12:24
RIA Novosti / Pavel Lisitsyn

RIA Novosti / Pavel Lisitsyn

The Russian Defense Ministry will modernize military settlements on the Kuril Islands and supply some 120 new combat vehicles by the end of the year. Russia’s sovereignty over four of the islands is disputed by Tokyo.

The islands have been a constant source of tension between Russia and Japan for decades. There are some 20,000 people living there at the moment, many of them Russian military and their families, who may see their living conditions improved over the next two years.

“Over the period to 2016 all major objects – more than 150 of them – on the islands of Iturup and Kunashir will be completed. Those will be modern fully autonomous military settlements with a developed social infrastructure,” said Col. Gen. Sergey Surovikin, commander of the Russian eastern military district.

The military in the Kuril Islands will also receive 120 additional vehicles, including armored ones, by the end of the year, the general added.

Russia launched an investment program for the Kuril Islands, including its military, back in 2011 amid growing calls in Japan to take the disputed territory back. Over the past three years the Defense Ministry sent some 350 modern vehicles to the islands and ramped up combat readiness of the stationed troops, Surovikin reported.

They were part of a larger defense procurement drive for Russia’s East, which included deployment of new S-400 surface-to-air missiles, new Sukhoi Su-35 fighters, Iskander ballistic missiles and other advanced weapons.

Other parts of the eastern military district, particularly Sakhalin Island, will have their military infrastructure revamped too, Surovikin said. The island will benefit from a similar facelift of existing military settlements, new modern military enclaves, new roads, an upgrade of training ranges and other improvements. The investment plan is set to run until 2020.

Russia took half of Sakhalin Island and the Kuril Islands from Japan during World War II. Japan’s claim to four southernmost islands is the reason why the two countries have never signed a peace treaty.