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    JAPAN GIVES HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE TO POPULATION OF SOUTHERN KURILS ON VOLUNTARY BASIS

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    MOSCOW, January 22 (RIA Novosti correspondent Dmitry Panovkin) - The Japanese side gives humanitarian assistance to the population of the Kuril Islands on a voluntary basis, with the Russian authorities' cooperation. Alexander Yakovenko, the Russian foreign ministry's official spokesman, made a statement to this effect Thursday.

    In Yakovenko's words, the Japanese side has been giving humanitarian assistance to Russians residing on the Kuril Islands for several years now. Various cargoes, including medicines and medical equipment, fuel and foodstuffs have been supplied within the framework of this assistance.

    "To a certain extent, this has promoted the solution of social and daily problems of the population," Alexander Yakovenko stressed.

    "According to the statement made by the Japanese side's representatives, Japan is planning to give humanitarian aid to the residents of these islands in future, too," Yakovenko added.

    Some political circles in Japan advocate the return of northern territories, i.e., the four South Kuril islands handed over to the USSR after the rout of militarist Japan in World War II, to Japan.

    While recognizing the existence of the territorial problem, Moscow does not intend to link it with the conclusion of a peace treaty with Japan.

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