A Japanese fisherman has been shot dead by a Russian patrol boat near a chain of disputed islands. Border guards also seized the vessel and its three remaining crew members. A Japanese news agency quoted the Russian embassy as saying the boat defied several orders to stop. Japan and Russia have been locked in a long-running dispute over what Russia calls the Southern Kuriles and Japan says are its Northern Territories. The four islands were captured by the Soviet Union at the end of World War Two in 1945.
Japan’s deputy chief cabinet secretary Jin’en Nagase said: “I have heard that a Japanese fishing vessel has been shot at and seized. It is an extremely regrettable incident and we intend to protest what needs to be protested and we intend to get more details on this incident.”
Russian deputy ambassador Mikhail Galuzin was later summoned to the Japanese Foreign Ministry. Fishing disputes are common in the area and Russian border patrols often try to capture Japanese workers. But the last time a Japanese fisherman was shot dead by a Soviet vessel was nearly 50 years ago. Russia has said it is willing to hand over two of the islands but Japan insists that all four must be returned. Some 17,000 Japanese residents were forced to flee when the territory was taken.