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Russians Ask Japan for Billions in Aid

September 13, 1991

MOSCOW (AP) _ The Russian Federation today said it was seeking up to $15 billion in aid from Japan in exchange for a swift resolution to the dispute over the Kuril islands, the Tass news agency reported.

The proposal by the Soviet Union’s largest republic follows several appeals by Moscow for international aid. Late Thursday, the European Parliament responded to a $7 billion Soviet aid appeal by asking the European Community for an international aid plan for the country.

The conflict over the small islands off northern Japan, seized by the Soviet Union after World War II, has prevented Japan and the Soviet Union from signing a peace treaty and has held up major economic aid from Tokyo.

A delegation headed by Ruslan Khasbulatov, acting chairman of the Russian parliament, ended a five-day visit to Tokyo with a promise to speed up a settlement of the 46-year-old dispute and a plea for economic aid.

″The Russian leadership would like to get $8 billion-$15 billion in economic aid from Japan and hopes Tokyo will provide it in a gesture of good will in helping its neighbor settle its problems,″ Khasbulatov told Tass in Tokyo before leaving heading home Friday.

A Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Taizo Watanabe, said the Russians wanted billions of dollars in aid, but that Khasbulatov ″has not made any direct request for that amount of money.″

Khasbulatov delivered a letter from Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin to Japanese Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu pledging to speed up the settlement of the Kuril dispute.

In May, Yeltsin had proposed a five-stage, 15- to 20-year plan to establish a free-enterprise zone on the islands and withdraw Soviet troops.

Tass said Yeltsin’s letter ″reflected the changes which are aimed at speeding up the stages of the settlement of the territorial problem.″

Grigory Yavlinsky, a prominent member of the Soviet Union’s current transitional government, said Wednesday he expected the Kuril dispute to be solved ″in the rather near future.″

Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev made no major concessions on the islands during a visit to Japan in April and, as a result, the Japanese refused to promise any significant aid to help the Soviet Union out of its economic mess.

Soviet central authority disintegrated after the failed hard-line coup in August, strengthening the insistence of Russian Federation leaders that they be involved in negotiations for foreign aid. Russia’s vast domain extends from Moscow to the Pacific and includes the disputed Kurils.

The European Parliament overwhelmingly adopted a resolution Thursday saying the plan should encompass emergency food and medical aid, technical assistance, balance of payments help and long-term investment programs.

It asked the Commission, executive body of the 12-nation European Community, ″to make urgent arrangements with other donors″ to draw up a food plan to offset dire shortages expected this winter.

″If the growth of freedom in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe is accompanied by a prolonged economic depression, this would constitute not only a human tragedy but also a threat to European and world stability,″ the European Community’s 518-seat advisory assembly said.

The Community has already agreed to give the Soviet Union about $1.2 billion in aid, including direct food aid, credits for food purchases and technical help.

On Wednesday, Moscow sent a letter to Commission President Jacques Delors asking the EC for additional food aid, which it valued at $7.25 billion.

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