Ex-Residents Voice Hopes to Continue Visits to Russian-Held Isles
Sapporo, March 28 (Jiji Press)--With Russia's invasion of Ukraine negatively affecting Japan-Russia negotiations on the two countries' territorial row, former residents of the disputed northwestern Pacific islands have voiced their earnest hopes of retaining their right to set foot in their hometowns.
In response to Japanese sanctions against Russia over the war in Ukraine, Russia unilaterally announced a halt to peace treaty talks with Japan and a suspension of a program to allow visa-free visits by Japanese people to the four Russian-held islands, known in Japan as the Northern Territories.
"I was prepared for diplomatic retaliation, but I'm angry at the one-sided announcement," said Yuzo Matsumoto, an 80-year-old who lived in Etorofu, one of the four islands claimed by Japan.
The graves of Matsumoto's grandfather and grandmother are in Etorofu. Matsumoto, however, has not been able to visit them since 2020 as the visa-free visit program was suspended due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
"Visiting (our ancestors') graves shows how much we think about our hometowns and is the cornerstone of the movement to have the islands returned," Matsumoto said. "We definitely don't want to lose" the right to visit the graves, he added.
[Copyright The Jiji Press, Ltd.]