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Russian coast guard denies shooting at Japanese fishing boat near Kuril Islands

RIA Novosti

04:06 16/02/2011 YUZHNO-SAKHALINSK, February 16 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian Coast Guard denied Japanese media reports on Wednesday that it had opened fire on a Japanese fishing vessel off the disputed South Kuril islands.

Kyodo news agency reported on Tuesday that Russian coast guards opened fire with illumination shells on a Japanese fishing vessel near Habomai Island.

"There was no shooting at Japanese fishing vessels," a spokesman for the Coast Guard department in Russia's Far East said. "There were not even any warning shots fired."

Last year on January 29, two Japanese fishing vessels entered Russia's territorial waters off Kunashir Island and ignored warning shots from a Russian coast guard helicopter. As a result, the guards had to open direct fire at the vessels. The fishing boats returned to their port of Rausu with numerous bullet holes on their hulls.

Tokyo's continued claim over four South Kuril Islands (Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan, and Habomai) has so far prevented Russia and Japan from signing a formal peace treaty to end World War II hostilities.

The four southern islands of the chain to the northeast of Japan were annexed by the Soviet Union after World War II.

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