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MOSCOW, July 24. /TASS/. Russia’s Defense Ministry is conducting a scheduled rearmament of troops stationed on the Kuril Islands, Defense Minister, General Sergey Shoigu said at a meeting of the ministry’s collegium on Friday.
"The planned rearmament of the Eastern Military District units stationed on the Kuril Islands is underway," Shoigu said. "This work will be generally completed by September. We should complete the construction work and deploy our units by the end of the year."
The minister said, in particular, that the construction of military towns was coming to an end on the Kunashir and Iturup Islands of the Kurils chain. The construction of facilities for the troops deployed in the Arctic zone and on the Kurils is planned to be completed in 2015, Shoigu added. "The towns will be built under the standard design, which will considerably cut the costs and ensure the construction safety in the seismic zone," the minister said, adding that "all the conditions for a comfortable life and rest of the military and their family members are being created."
"Modern houses, hospitals, theaters and roads are being built. A new airport on the Iturup Island was commissioned last autumn," the minister said.
Japan disputes Russia’s ownership of the southern Kurils. On Friday, Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida sent to Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev a request to cancel his trip to the Kuril Islands.
In a statement sent to Medvedev through the embassy, Kishida said: "If the trip [by Medvedev] takes place, this will run counter to Japan’s position on the issue of the four northern islands and will hurt the feelings of the Japanese people." The Japanese Foreign Ministry also said that a similar request had been forwarded to the Russian Foreign Ministry, asking the Russian premier not to visit the territories claimed by Japan.
Medvedev on Thursday announced his plans to visit the disputed islands in Russia’s Far East — known as the Southern Kurils in Russia but as the Northern Territories in Japan — and advised other ministers to follow his example. "I am planning to go and have a look how matters stand there. And I invite the others," Medvedev told a government meeting, without giving any specific date of his trip. Medvedev first visited the Kuril Islands in 2010 when he was holding the post of the Russian president. He became the first Russian leader to visit the islands. In 2012, the premier visited Kunashir, southernmost of the Kuril Islands.
Japan, which claims four of the Kuril Islands, including Kunashir, protested against Medvedev’s visits. However, Moscow has repeatedly stated that Tokyo has no right to give Russian leaders advice on the routes of their domestic trips.