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Russia to avoid Japan-claimed islands in planned military drill

A large-scale drill by the Russian military set to start in the country’s Far East on Tuesday will not be conducted on the Kuril Islands, including four Japanese-claimed islands, its chief of staff, Valery Gerasimov, said Thursday.

Gerasimov said there is no plan to conduct the Vostok 2018 exercise on the disputed islands as large units are not stationed there.

The Japanese government has repeatedly protested against Russian military activities on and around the islands, called the Northern Territories in Japan.

Last month, Russian fighter aircraft were reported to be deployed on a trial basis on Etorofu Island, the largest of the four isles.

The upcoming drill, if conducted on the islands, might provoke a direct protest by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Russian President Vladimir Putin when the two leaders meet in the Russian Far East city of Vladivostok next week, observers said.

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