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First flight from Japan arrives at Kuril Islands as part of visa-free exchanges

September 23, 6:26 UTC+3 YUZHNO-SAKHALINSK

The jet first landed in Mendeleyevo airport on Kunashir where about a half of the delegation disembarked. The remaining part flew to Iturup

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YUZHNO-SAKHALINSK, September 23. /TASS/. The first chartered flight of Aurora airline arrived at the Kurile Islands from Japan on Saturday, bringing a delegation of former Japanese residents of the Southern Kurile Islands as part of visa-free exchanges, the press service of the Sakhalin region government said on Saturday.

"A Bombardier Q400 jet of Aurora airline that took off this mornign from the Nakashibetsu airport on Hokkaido brought 68 people to the islands of Kunashir and Iturup," the press release said. "The delegation includes the people who lived there earlier, as well as the children and grandchildren of former residents of the islands, the staff-members of the Japanese Foreign Ministry, interpreters, and medics. They live in ten prefectures of Japan."

The jet first landed in Mendeleyevo airport on Kunashir where about a half of the delegation disembarked. The remaining part flew to Iturup.

The main purpose of the trip is to visit the cemeteries where their ancestors and relatives are buried. Remembrance services have been chanted.

At night, the delegation will take a return flight to Nakashibetsu.

Most members of the Japanese delegation have visited the Southern Kurile Islands as part of visa-free exchange programs but previously the groups of visitors came to the islands by sea only.

Under the initial plans, the trip was to take place in June but it was moved to September because of bad weather in the Southern Kurile Islands area.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reached an agreement on this trip at the talks in Moscow on April 27. At a G20 conference in July in Hamburg, the two leaders agreed the trip in September.

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