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Russia Says Medvedev Free To Visit Kuriles

Moscow has defended President Dmitry Medvedev's right to visit the disputed Kurile Islands despite Japan's warnings that doing so could hurt ties between the two countries.

Speaking in Hanoi, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters that the Russian president "plans his domestic movements across our country independently."

Medvedev has repeatedly signaled his intentions to travel to the islands, originally planning to do so last month but then saying he was prevented from going because of bad weather.

The Kurile Islands, which lie north of Japan's Hokkaido Island, have been controlled by Moscow since they were seized by Soviet troops in 1945 at the end of World War II, but Tokyo still claims the southernmost four islands as Japanese territory.

compiled from agency reports