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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 August 2006, 12:29 GMT 13:29 UK
Kurils set to get massive funding
Kuril Islands
The Russian government has backed a 17bn-rouble ($630m) plan to develop the Kuril Islands in the Pacific Ocean.

The draft plan for 2007-15 aims to improve the islands' energy and transport infrastructure, including the construction of an all-weather airport.

Russia has a long-standing territorial dispute with Japan over four Kuril islands, seized after World War II.

Meanwhile, Russia plans to expand its restricted border zones that could be as big as in Soviet times, reports say.

'Ignored region'

The government plans to spend nearly $1,000 for every resident of the chain of 56 Pacific islands a month - more than in any other region in Russia.

"This is an important Russian region. It is a remote region that has been ignored for a long time," Russia's First Vice-Premier, Dmitry Medvedev, was quoted as saying at the meeting by the NEWSru.com website.

Among the priorities is the construction of an all-weather airport, that Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said "must be built" in 2006.

He said that currently the Kurils did not have "a reliable air link" with mainland Russia, citing several instances when bad weather forced travellers to wait for weeks for their flights.

Mr Gref also said that Moscow had no plans for a handover of the islands to Japan, according to Russia's Itar-Tass news agency.

In the past, Moscow had said it may surrender two of the islands seized during World War II, but Japan wants all four returned.

The four southernmost islands are known as the southern Kurils in Russia, and the Northern Territories in Japan.

The dispute has prevented the two sides from signing a peace treaty formally ending World War II hostilities.

'Closed' border

The backing of the Kurils plan comes as Russia's security service FSB plans to expand the country's restricted border areas, according to Russia's Kommersant newspaper.

It said that large swathes of land near the border could be closed to outsiders unless they had a special permit.

Some border zones had already been expanded to as deep as 30km (19 miles), it said, and now the total area under the FSB control amounted to the size of France.

Kommersant also reported that the changes had provoked an angry outcry in the Russian Far East, where residents are now being prevented from entering beaches without special permission.

In Soviet times, Russia's vast border was controlled by the KGB, but that power was transferred to federal border guards in 1991.

In 2003, President Vladimir Putin handed control back to the FSB, which succeeded the KGB.

Push to improve Russia-Japan ties
14 Jan 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Koizumi presses claim to islands
02 Sep 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Russian anger over Kuril pledge
08 Feb 02 |  Asia-Pacific
Kuril islands dispute deadlocked
05 Sep 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Putin rejects Kuril agreement with Japan
04 Sep 00 |  Asia-Pacific

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