Russia commemorates WWII victory over Japan on disputed islands

Russia held events Sunday on islands disputed with Japan to commemorate its World War II victory over the country after changing the name of the anniversary to include the phrase “militaristic Japan.”

Soldiers paraded on Etorofu off northern Japan while flowers were offered at cenotaphs to fallen Soviet soldiers on the islands of Kunashiri and Shikotan. Crowds also gathered at a weapons exposition on Etorofu showcasing tanks and multiple rocket launchers.

In Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, the capital of the Sakhalin region, which has jurisdiction over the island group, Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, pledged that the country would achieve victory in its ongoing war on Ukraine “by fulfilling sacred obligations similarly to 80 years ago.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin in June signed into a law a change in the name of its victory commemoration from “The Day of the End of World War II” to “The Day of Victory Over Militaristic Japan and the End of World War II.” The anniversary is celebrated on Sept. 3, the day after Japan’s surrender in the war in 1945.

The islands called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia were seized by the Soviet Union following Japan’s surrender. Tokyo argues the annexation was illegal and demands their return, while Moscow says it was a legitimate outcome of the war.

The dispute over the islets has prevented the two countries from signing a postwar peace treaty. Moscow has halted decades-old negotiations over the issue in the wake of Japan’s punitive sanctions against Russia over Ukraine.

By Perviz Mughal