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Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov denied Monday that President Vladimir Putin will visit one of the Russian-held islands claimed by Japan next week, the Itar-Tass news agency reported.
The report followed a Japanese politician's claim that he heard Lev Sedikh, chief of Anama village on Shikotan, one of the islands, saying Putin could visit either Shikotan or nearby Kunashiri next Monday.
Toyama prefectural assembly member Hisayoshi Ono told a press conference in Nemuro, Hokkaido on Monday that he heard of the plan on Sunday when visiting Shikotan with a group of former residents.
Itar-Tass reported Peskov as saying that while Putin has a visit to Sakhalin scheduled for next week, there are no plans for him to stop in the islands -- called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia.
The islands, composed of Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and the Habomai islet group, were seized by the Soviet Union after Japan's surrender at the end of World War II, and their sovereignty remains a point of contention between Japan and Russia.
Tension over the islands has risen in recent years, with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visiting Kunashiri last July, following his visit in November 2010 as president.
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