Hundreds have demonstrated on Sakhalin in Russia’s Far East to protest against any potential transfer to Japan of any of the islands from the disputed Kurile chain.
Some 300 people turned out for the unsanctioned event on January 19 in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, the regional administrative center.
One demonstrator was hauled off by police after the event and held for two hours before being released with a citation for violating public order.
It’s the latest in a string of similar actions on Sakhalin.
It comes amid efforts by Moscow and Tokyo to resolve a decades-long dispute over the islands, known in Russia as the Southern Kuriles and in Japan as the Northern Territories.
The islands were captured by Soviet troops in the last days of World War II. Failure to resolve the dispute has blocked the countries from signing a peace treaty to formally end the hostilities.
In November, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed to accelerate negotiations based on a 1956 Soviet proposal to return the two less populated islands, Shikotan and a group of islets called Habomai.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on January 14 that the two countries still have "substantial disagreements" despite some progress in bringing their positions closer.
Lavrov also warned not to expect progress toward an agreement unless Japan first recognizes Russian sovereignty over the Pacific island chain.