Flights Between Russia and Northern Territories Announced; Moscow Seeks to Reassert Sovereignty Over Japan’s Islands

Russian President Vladimir Putin
The Yomiuri Shimbun

Russia’s Aurora Airlines announced Monday that it would begin operating passenger flights between Vladivostok and Shana — called Kurilsk in Russian — on the northern territories’ Etorofu Island on Dec. 6 and has begun selling tickets.

The airline currently flies between Shana and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk in Russia’s Sakhalin Oblast, and will expand its route to improve connections between the northern territories and the Russian mainland.

According to Aurora’s announcement, it would operate one round-trip flight a week, and the flights are subsidized by the Russian government. The aircraft to be used is a Bombardier DHC8-Q400 equipped with 70 passenger seats. Fares start at 2,000 rubles (¥3,300) for a one-way trip.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s administration is focusing on the development of the Far East — including the northern territories. The purpose of the new route is apparently to accommodate an increasing number of Russian tourists, but it also seems to be Moscow’s intention to reassert its ownership of northern territories and control the region more effectively.