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Russian people negative about returning Northern Territories: polls

The Habomai islets, part of Japan's Northern Territories off the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido, is shown in this aerial picture taken on Dec. 3, 2016 in the city of Nemuro in eastern Hokkaido. (Mainichi/Noriko Tokuno)

MOSCOW -- Two recent opinion polls show that an overwhelming majority of Russian people are negative about returning the Russia-controlled Northern Territories to Japan, despite a recent agreement between Japan and Russia to accelerate talks on the position of the four islands and a peace treaty.

According to a poll of 1,500 people conducted on Nov. 24 and 25 by the Public Opinion Foundation linked to the Russian government, 55 percent said the islands should belong to Russia, while 12 percent replied that the islands occupied by the Soviet Union shortly after the end of World War II should be managed jointly by the two countries. Some 8 percent said only two of the islands should be handed over to Japan, while 6 percent replied that a decision on the issue should be postponed to the distant future. Only 2 percent said the territories should belong to Tokyo.

Another poll conducted by the private Levada Center from Nov. 22 through Nov. 28 indicated that only 17 percent of 1,600 respondents supported the idea of Russia signing a peace treaty with Japan and handing over some of the territories to Japan to develop economic cooperation between the two countries. Those opposed to this idea reached 74 percent.

In a May 2016 poll, 7 percent supported and 78 percent opposed the handover of the Northern Territories to Japan, with the question not mentioning the economic relationship with Japan. A simple comparison of the two results shows that the ratio of those supporting the idea has grown by 10 percentage points in 2 1/2 years. The proportion of those opposed to such a move dropped by 4 points over the same period. The support rate of 17 percent is a record high, while the previously highest figure was 12 percent in October 1992 among the 13 past polls conducted since August 1992, shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union and succession by Russia.

(Japanese original by Hitoshi Omae, Moscow Bureau)

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