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Russian Orthodox saint statue erected on disputed island.

MOSCOW, July 26 Kyodo

Russia has erected a saint statue on one of the Habomai group of islands which Japan says was seized by the former Soviet Union at the end of World War II and has long called for its return together with three larger islands off Hokkaido, sources at the disputed islands said Thursday.

The erection of the statue is seen to show Moscow's firm resolve to continue occupation of the disputed islands, as Japan has been sensitive about moves on those islands, they said.

The sources said the statue was erected Tuesday on Suisho Island, one of the small islets in the Habomai group. The 1-ton statue, produced outside Moscow by a Russian sculptor, was flown to Sakhalin in Russia's Far East and then helilifted to the island.

A Russian Orthodox clergyman offered players upon the installation, they said.

Meanwhile, Russia's Itar-Tass news agency reported Wednesday, ''A 3-meter-high monument to St. Nicholas the Wonder-worker was unveiled on the island of Tanfilyev,'' the Russian name for Suisho Island. St. Nicholas the Wonder-worker is considered a patron of all travelers, as well as border guards.

Quoting the missionary department of the Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk and Kuril eparchy, the report said, ''The sculpture...was airlifted by an airplane belonging to the Federal Security Service from Moscow and was installed on the foundation on Wednesday near an Orthodox chapel, which had been earlier built there.''

Itar-Tass also said Bishop of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk and the Kuril Islands Daniel told border guards who serve on Tanfilyev island that the Russian Orthodox Church decided to place monuments to St. Nicholas along the whole Russian border.

Along with Bishop Daniel, clergymen from Moscow, officers and soldiers of the Sakhalin Coast Guard department of the Federal Security Service, and representatives of the St. Nicholas charity foundation participated in the consecration ceremony of the monument, it said.

Suisho Island is located about 7 kilometers off Hokkaido's eastern tip of Nossappu point. The 20-square-kilometer island has a Russian observation post and a radar facility, and only Russian border guards live there. About 1,000 Japanese people, who were mostly engaged in fisheries, lived on the island at the end of the war.

Japan and Russia have long been at odds over sovereignty of Kunashiri, Etorofu, Shikotan and the Habomai island group, known in Japan as the Northern Territories and in Russia as the southern Kurils.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Suisho Island in June during a trip to the Russian Far East.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Date:Jul 30, 2007
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