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Russia: Border Official Defends Firing On Japanese Boat

Tokyo, 26 June 1997 (RFE/RL) -- A top Russian border guard official says that coast guards who fired this morning on Japanese fishermen off the Kuril Islands, injuring two, had acted correctly.

Interfax quoted Innokenty Nalyotov, commander of Russia's naval border guards, as saying that coast guards who fired at four Japanese fishing boats had applied "all measures to suppress border violations and seafood poaching."

Nalyotov also said he had decided to increase the number of border patrol boats in the south Kurils region.

Tokyo is demanding that Moscow investigate the incident. Japanese officials say that one of the two fishermen hit by gunfire was seriously injured in the thigh.

The Japanese foreign minister said in a statement to the Russian embassy in Tokyo today that "shooting at an unarmed private fishing boat is intolerable."

The Kuril Islands have been the subject of a long-standing territorial dispute between Moscow and Tokyo. The islands were seized by Soviet troops at the end of World War Two. Japan seeks their return.