Zelensky urges world leaders to recognize Japan’s claim to disputed Russian-occupied islands

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on the international community to recognize Japanese claims to four disputed islands that Russia has controlled for more than half a century.

Zelensky said in an address to the Ukrainian people on Friday that he had signed a decree recognizing the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Japan, including the Russian-held territories.

The islands of Habomai, Shikotan, Kunashiri and Etorofu, referred to as the Northern Territories by Japan and the Southern Kurils by Russia, have historically been part of Japan, but Russia captured them in the final days of World War II in 1945. Japan contends that this was in violation of the Neutrality Pact that it and the Soviet Union signed earlier in the war.

Japan and the Soviet Union were not at war for most of the conflict until the end, after Germany’s defeat.

The 1951 Treaty of San Francisco, which officially dismantled Japan’s empire, stated that Japan should give up its right to the Kuril Islands, but it does not recognize the Soviet Union’s control over them. Japan argues that it should control the four southernmost islands in the chain.

Zelensky said Russia has no right to the territories, and the entire world knows this. He said the international community must “de-occupy” all lands that Russia has occupied and is trying to keep.

“With this war against Ukraine, against the international legal order, against our people, Russia has put itself in conditions — and it is now only a matter of time — of the real liberation of everything that once was seized and is now under the control of the Kremlin,” he said.

Zelensky’s push comes as Ukraine has conducted a major counteroffensive to regain control of territory that Russia had taken earlier in the war. He said Ukrainian forces liberated almost 800 square kilometers of territory in the east and almost 30 settlements this week.

Zelensky said Russia will show all “potential aggressors” that conducting an “aggressive terrorist war” in the present day is a way to weaken and destroy the one that starts it.

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