Group of Japanese visits Iturup Island in visa-free exchange prog

VLADIVOSTOK, August 6 (Itar-Tass) —— A group of 50 Japanese arrives on Saturday on board the Roza Rugoza in Kuril’s Iturup Island in the framework of a visa-free exchange programme. They are former citizens of the Kuril Island, their children and grandchildren, representatives of various civil organisations from Hokkaido and Japan’s other prefectures. The visit’s programme includes visits to burials in Japan’s former settlements and learning every-day life of Russians, the administration of Kurilsk said.

The delegation from Japan will feature the country’s former Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara. On Friday, Itar-Tass correspondent in Tokyo said that the former foreign minister “in political circles is considered to be a possible candidate for premiership.”

Maehara plans to visit Iturup “to learn the infrastructure organised there,” which is a “part of the process of his learning Russia’s policies.” Back in 2006, he visited Iturup.

The population of the island is 6,000. Kurlisk, the administrative centre of the Kuril Region, has a population of about 2,000. Besides Iturup, the Kuril Islands include deserted islands of Urup, Brouton, Black Brothers, Simushir and all minor islands and rocks in the 12-mile zone around the islands.

The Kuril Region is a part of the Sakhalin Region. Passenger airplanes connect Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk and Iturup, and fishing and transport vessels come to Kurilsk and other settlements of the island.

The year 2011 is the 20th season of visa-free trips of citizens of Russia and Japan. Over the past years, 18,500 Japanese visited the islands and 8,500 residents of islands Shikotan, Kunashir and Iturup visited Japan.

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