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Most citizens oppose handover of Kuril Islands to Japan, opinion poll says

96% of the locals believe that Russia should not hand over the Kuril Islands to Japan, the poll states

YUZHNO-SAKHALINSK, February 19. /TASS/. The majority of citizens of the Kuril Islands (96%) unanimously expressed their position against handing over the territory to Japan, a survey carried out by the All-Russia Public Opinion Research Center showed on Tuesday.

The opinion poll was conducted on February 11-17 among residents of the Kuril Islands. A total of 7,695 of Russians above 18 inhabiting the islands or two thirds of the adult population were questioned. The survey was carried out by more than 50 interviewers from the Kuril Islands and other Russian regions. The key question was: "Do you believe Russia should or should not hand over to Japan the Southern Kuril Islands?"

"Some 2% of citizens answered yes, another 2% found it difficult to answer. And 96% believe that Russia should not hand over the Kuril Islands to Japan," Director General of the pollster’s fund Konstantin Abramov told an emergency meeting of the Sakhalin regional parliament.

According to Abramov, the interviewers worked in three formats, questioning citizens at home, at work and at the places of mass gathering such as cinemas and shops. Each interviewer filled data on a tablet PC, making it possible to conduct the survey within a short time. "This data is more than resultative, we rarely use this poll in the form of a referendum, and we are glad that we were able to carry it out on the territory of the Kuril Islands," Abramov said.

During the survey, the Kuril Islands’ citizens handed over to the interviewers a list of their problems and wishes, which they believe should be addressed by Acting Governor of the Sakhalin Region Valery Limarenko. "We will draw up the document and send to you," Abramov told the acting head of the region.

On November 26, 2018 the pollster conducted an opinion poll on the Kuril Islands among the citizens of Sakhalin, Russia's largest island lying in the North Pacific Ocean. Three-quarters of respondents (77%) opposed the handover of the Southern Kuril Islands to Japan for the sake of signing a peace treaty and fostering bilateral ties with Tokyo.

Dispute over Kurils

Since the mid-20th century, Russia and Japan have been holding consultations in order to clinch a peace treaty as a follow-up to World War II. The Kuril Islands issue remains the key sticking point since after WWII the islands were handed over to the Soviet Union while Japan laid claims to the four southern islands.

In November 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held a meeting on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in Singapore and agreed that the two countries would accelerate the pace of the peace negotiations based on the 1956 Joint Declaration. The document ended the state of war and said that the Soviet government was ready to hand Shikotan Island and a group of small islands called Habomai over to Japan on condition that Tokyo would take control of them once a peace treaty was signed.

However, after Japan and the United States had signed the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security in 1960, the Soviet Union withdrew its obligation to hand over the islands. A Soviet government’s memorandum dated January 27, 1960, said that those islands would only be handed over to Japan if all foreign troops were pulled out of the country.

Russia has stated on numerous occasions that the document does not set out handover conditions and thus requires further clarification.