(Reuters) – Russia’s Roscosmos space agency director general, Dmitry Rogozin, said on Monday that the Kuril Islands, a subject of territorial dispute with Japan, could be renamed after Russian ships and events of the early 20th century’s Russo-Japanese War.
The territorial dispute over the isles – which Russia says are part of its Kuril chain and which Japan calls its Northern Territories – has prevented Tokyo and Moscow from reaching a peace treaty formally ending World War Two hostilities.
Rogozin, a former deputy prime minister who oversaw Russia’s arms industry, proposed to change the name of one of the islands to Varyag in honour of a cruiser whose sinking started the Russo-Japanese War in 1904.
Rogozin, known for his strident statements and who has been vocal on social media since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February, also proposed that the Habomai Islands could be called the archipelago of Russian hero sailors.
“Always, when states added territories they would give them their own names (… ) Why don’t these islands have Russian names?” Rogozin said on state-owned radio broadcaster Sputnik.
“This would be much more logical than the names with which we now have been calling these islands and which destroy the Russian language.”
Japan has joined its Western allies in slapping economic sanctions on Russia after it sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine in what Moscow calls a “special military operation.” Ukraine and its allies say Russia launched an unprovoked war.
Russia withdrew from peace treaty talks with Japan and froze joint economic projects related to the disputed Kuril Islands because of Japanese sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
(Reporting by Lidia Kelly in Melbourne; Editing by Matthew Lewis)