Russia to send navy vessels to disputed Pacific islands
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia will send two navy vessels to the disputed Kuril islands in the Pacific, the Defence Ministry said on Tuesday, in a move likely to anger Japan which lays claim to them.
The dispute has strained relations between the two countries since World War Two, when Soviet forces occupied the four islands at the southern end of the Kuril chain.
Japan says the islands are part of its territory and wants Moscow to hand them over.
The Russian Defence Ministry said the large landing ship Admiral Nevelskoi and the tugboat Kalar will visit three of the four islands to take part in ceremonies honouring Soviet sailors who died there at the end of World War Two.
The Pacific fleet ships are scheduled to travel between August 25 and September 17, it said.
Moscow disagrees with Tokyo's claim, and senior Russian officials have drawn protests from Japan in the past two years by traveling to the islands, which Russia calls the Southern Kurils and Japan calls the Northern Territories.
Dmitry Medvedev made the first visit to the islands by a Russian president in 2010 and went there again on July 3, this time as prime minister.
The ship's voyage will coincide with a summit of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in Russia.
(Reporting By Nastassia Astrasheuskaya; Editing by Alessandra Rizzo)
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