Hundreds of Russians have protested talks over giving some of the Kuril Islands back to Japan ahead of a meeting between Shinzo Abe and Vladimir Putin.
Demonstrators chanted “the Kurils are our lands!” and “dismiss the government!” in a park in front of the Russian army theatre in downtown Moscow on Sunday, bundled up against the freezing temperatures. “We’ll hand over Putin rather than the Kurils!” one placard read.
A similar rally took place in Khabarovsk in eastern Russia, and protesters have previously come out on Sakhalin Island.
Russia and Japan have been vying for control of the Kurils since the 18th century, but Moscow took complete control of the island chain at the end of the Second World War. Tokyo refused to recognise this claim, which has prevented the two countries from ever signing a peace treaty.
At a southeast Asia summit in November, Mr Putin and Mr Abe agreed to renew negotiations on the basis of a Soviet initiative to return two of the islands in exchange for a peace treaty. They will meet again in Moscow on Tuesday.
But last week the foreign minister said Japan must recognise Russia’s sovereignty over the Kurils for any progress to be made, and Moscow has been gradually strengthening its military presence on the islands.