The presentation of the Olympic flame route on the official website of the Tokyo Olympic Games in Tokyo surprised Russian politicians. On an interactive map, the Russian islands of Kunashir, Shikotan, Iturup and Habomai, which are part of the Kuril archipelago, were included in the Japanese prefecture of Hokkaido.
At a weekly briefing, the official representative of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maria Zakharova, expressed bewilderment over the incident. According to her, the actions of Japan may adversely affect relations between countries.
“We believe that such actions are unauthorized. However, in addition to the legal side of the matter, there is a question of atmosphere, which the two sides are trying to form. What happened poisons her. The Japanese side needs to ask the question: “Who benefits from this?” It’s definitely not Tokyo’s bilateral relations, ”said Zakharova.
According to the diplomat, Tokyo periodically ignores the undeniable sovereignty of Russia over the South Kuril Islands following the Second World War.
“All of these so-called protests against our legitimate activities in this part of the Sakhalin Oblast are not simply unacceptable - they directly contradict the constant assurances of the Japanese leadership of the intention to ensure a calm and benevolent atmosphere around the Russian-Japanese dialogue,” Zakharova added.
The Federation Council suggested that the current situation could develop into an international scandal. So, Andrei Klimov, deputy chairman of the Federation Council on international affairs, expressed confidence that the Russian Foreign Ministry should send a note of protest to the Japanese authorities.
“It is clear why this is done, but unfortunately for everyone, this process will inevitably continue, because the Japanese political establishment must demonstrate to the people of their country that they still adhere to the point of view that this is their rightful territory,” RBC quotes Klimova .
Alexei Pushkov, chairman of the Federation Council temporary committee on information policy and media relations, agrees. In his opinion, the actions of the Japanese authorities are contrary to the main idea of the Olympic Games.
“The image of the South Kuril Islands as part of Japan on the official website of the Olympics 2020 is no longer a private initiative, but something more, that is, calling for the“ red line ”. Tokyo should abandon these attacks. The meaning of the Olympics is to be a celebration of sport and peace, and not a reason for escalating hostility, ”Pushkov wrote on Twitter.
Some experts considered this gesture a provocation. So, the chairman of the State Duma committee on physical education, sports, tourism and youth affairs, Mikhail Degtyarev, considers the actions of the organizing committee of the Olympics a baseness.
“From the side of Japan, a provocation has been admitted, this alienates it from the desired islands. They can be painted over, painted over, but there will be no benefit from this. Such events should be out of politics. Use the Olympic Games and information materials to advance your interests low. Such insinuations of the Japanese sports authorities create a negative background for the negotiation process for a peace treaty, ”Sport-Express quotes Degtyarev as saying.
In turn, Dmitry Svishchev, First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Physical Culture, Sports and Youth Affairs, noted that in this way the Japanese authorities are trying to put pressure on Russia.
“I think that the indication of the South Kuril Islands as part of Japan on the official website of the Olympics cannot be regarded as an unintentional mistake. In my opinion, this is a targeted action, which the Japanese leadership seeks to accelerate the negotiation process with Russia, ”RIA Novosti quoted Svishchev as saying.
At the same time, the 2006 Olympic champion in speed skating, Svetlana Zhurova, called on to understand what had happened and not to make hasty conclusions. She emphasized that a boycott of the competition is not a way out of this situation.
“We do not know for what purpose this was done. Therefore, we must first understand, and then involve the athletes in this story. Indeed, this mistake or provocation is still difficult to say, although, of course, such things are usually agreed upon, ”the ex-athlete noted.
In addition, she added that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) should initiate the proceedings, as its reputation is at stake.
“There is official recognition that this is still Russian territory. In this sense, the IOC does not need such, say, unpleasant situations. Therefore, I think that they will most likely express themselves on this subject and make a comment, ”Zhurova concluded.
In turn, representatives of the IOC said that negotiations are currently underway with the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee.
“We refer you to the statement of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, in which they make it clear that the map on their website is a topographic map of the area,” the organization’s press service said.
The South Kuril Islands have been a stumbling block in relations between the two states for several decades. All islands of the archipelago belong to Russia in the Second World War, which was enshrined in the 1945 UN Charter. However, Japan lays claim to Shikotan, Iturup, Kunashir and Habomai, based on the bilateral Treaty on Trade and Borders, concluded in 1855.
The incident with the "accession" of the South Kuril Islands to Japan occurred a few weeks after Russia received an official invitation to the Tokyo Olympics, which means that the national team will be able to compete under its own flag. At the same time, the Russian Olympic Committee (OCD) did not comment on what happened. Its representatives emphasized that the Foreign Ministry should deal with the situation.
Meanwhile, mistakes related to the use of state symbols in competitions are far from rare. Organizers include incorrect hymns at award ceremonies, attribute to sportsmen nationalities of other countries, and confuse flags. However, most often these cases are the result of carelessness or ignorance and are not intended to offend tournament participants.