Russian president's envoy in far east Konstantin Pulikovsky is positive that Moscow will not give up any territory in a group of Russian-held islands at the center of a old dispute with Japan.
The comments by Konstantin Pulikovsky were the latest in a string of similar statements by top Russian officials about the islands _ which Russia calls the Southern Kurils and Japan the Northern Territories _ ahead of a visit by Putin to Japan in the fall.
The dispute over the islands has prevented Russia and Japan from signing a World War II peace treaty. But Pulikovsky said that relations with Japan are developing well despite the lack of a peace pact and dismissed talk about ceding any of the islands as moves in Japan's domestic political scene.
"The problem of the so-called disputed territory is mostly a public-relations platform for Japanese politicians, upon which they build their election campaigns, Pulikovsky said, according to his spokesman, Yevgeny Anoshin.
Putin is to make an official visit to Tokyo in November, amid continuing pressure from Japan for Russia to cede sovereignty of the islands, which lie more than 10,000 kilometers (6,210 miles) from Moscow just off the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.
On Friday, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Russia would not make any territorial concessions and would not decrease its military presence on the islands, which Soviet troops seized in the dying days of World War II.
Pulikovsky said the islands and surrounding waters are packed with valuable resources including fish and crabs. He said they are being developed by Russian businesses and in the future will be a "beautiful corner of a thriving Russia," the AP reports.
More than 3,500 people were detained during unprecedented mass protests that swept across all of Russia in support of Alexey Navalny on January 23