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Japan Protests Russian Move To Give Some Disputed Islands Names

An aerial view shows Kunashiri Island, one of four islands known as the Southern Kuriles in Russia

Japanese officials said they lodged a protest with Russia over Moscow's decision to give names to five formerly unnamed islands of a disputed chain known as the Southern Kuriles in Russia.

"This is unacceptable and runs counter to Japan's position," Yoshihide Suga, the secretary-general of Tokyo's cabinet told a news conference on February 14, referring to what Japan calls the Northern Territories. "We sent a note of protest to Russia through diplomatic channels."

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev last week gave names to five islands.

The TASS news agency reported that the names commemorate General Kuzma Derevyanko, who signed an act on Japan's capitulation at the end of World War II in 1945, General Alexei Gnechko, who commanded the Kurile Islands Landing operation in 1945, Soviet diplomat Andrei Gromyko who was foreign minister of the Soviet Union from 1957 through to 1985, Sakhalin regional Governor Igor Farkhutdinov, and Anna Shchetinina, the world's first female captain of an ocean-going merchant ship.

Soviet troops seized the island chain in 1945 after Japan surrendered at the end of WWII. The territorial spat has prevented the two countries from concluding a post-war peace treaty.

Japan has sought to resolve the dispute in recent talks with Russia. Suga said the incident will not affect those talks.

Based on reporting by dpa, TASS, and Kyodo