Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent a personal New Year's message to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as well as to other world leaders on Saturday.
In the message, Putin noted that Russian-Japanese relations have recently intensified on a number of aspects, including political dialogue. He also cited the resumption of the 'two-plus-two' foreign and defense ministerial talks between the two nations as a positive development.
Putin expressed his expectation for better mutual understanding next year between peoples of the 2 countries through exchange events.
The events are designed to pave the way for conclusion of a bilateral peace treaty, which includes the resolution of the Northern Territories issue. Russia controls the islands; Japan claims them. The Japanese government maintains the islands are an inherent part of Japan's territory.
A variety of cultural exchange events are planned for next year, which is designated as Japan-Russia cross exchange year. The 2 leaders designated it in their summit in December 2016 to expand people-to-people exchanges.