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Russian defense minister dispatches expedition to ‘mysterious’ Kuril island

Before World War II Japan built a network of military fortifications on the Island of Matua in the Kuril chain turning it into a fortress
Island of Matua
Island of Matua

MOSCOW, February 18. /TASS/. Russia’s Geographical Society will dispatch an expedition to the Island of Matua in the Kuril chain where Japan built a network of military fortifications before World War II, turning it into a fortress, Society President and Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said on Thursday.

The expedition will include military specialists, speleologists and underwater world explorers, Shoigu told journalists.

"There are many enigmas and a lot of interesting as the island is mysterious," the president of the Russian Geographical Society said.

According to Shoigu, there are a lot of fortifications, subterranean tunnels and grottos on the island along with two takeoff strips warmed by thermal springs and a road leading to a volcano.

"As for the military aspect, there are a lot of various puzzles there. No one has been able to answer up to this day where a large number of military hardware and ammunitions prepared to repeal Soviet troops had gone and where two-thirds of the island’s garrison had gone," the Russian defense minister said.

The Russian Geographical Society dispatched a similar expedition in the autumn of 2015 to the Island of Shumshu in the Kuril chain where the last battle of World War II had taken place and the Soviet troops had destroyed the Japanese garrison on the island in August 1945.

The airfields of the Japanese army, small floating tanks, aircraft remnants, engineering installations and small locomotives for ammunition supply have remained on the island.

The Russian Geographical Society has 85 regional branches across Russia. The Society’s Supervisory Board is headed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Kuril Islands territorial dispute

Russia and Japan have no peace treaty signed after World War II. Settlement of the problem inherited by Russia’s diplomacy from the Soviet Union is hampered by the years-long dispute over the four islands of Russia’s Southern Kurils - Shikotan, Khabomai, Iturup and Kunashir, which Japan calls its northern territories.

After World War II, in September 1945, Japan signed the capitulation, and in February 1946, the Kuril Islands were declared territories of the Soviet Union.

During the Cold War, Moscow did not recognize the territorial problem, but in October 1993, when Russian president Boris Yeltsin was on an official visit in Japan, the existence of the problem was confirmed officially. However, the two countries have reached no compromise over the dispute yet.