While there are signs of pragmatism in both Moscow and Tokyo, this last barrier to concluding WW2 remains
The Kuril Islands, or the Northern Territories as Japan likes to call them, are at the center of an uneasy relationship between Russia and Japan.
The USSR occupied the islands between August and September 1945. Since the end of World War II, the disputed territory and related issues are the primary subject of engagement between the two countries.
The contention over the ownership of the Kurils is also the main hurdle for the conclusion of World War II between the two nations. Over the decades, the diplomatic efforts by Japan have been unsuccessful in getting the islands back.
In recent times there has been considerable cause to suggest that the Russian side has taken or has been compelled to take an icy approach to settling the Kuril Islands dispute because of public opinion.
Laws in the new constitution adopted by Russia in July 2020 criminalize any alienation of Russian territories or advocacy for territorial concessions. These laws apply equally to every part of Russia, including those with some controversy around them, such as the Kuril Islands, Crimea and Kaliningrad.