Russia eyes quick introduction of tariff-free zone

The Russian government says it will press ahead with President Vladimir Putin's plan to introduce a tariff-free zone in four Russian-held islands claimed by Japan.

Putin said on Friday that his country will offer tax breaks to attract Japanese and other foreign investors to the Kuril Islands. What Russians call the Kuril Islands include the four islands claimed by Japan.

Deputy Prime Minister Yury Trutnev told reporters on Monday that a tariff-free zone needs to be set up swiftly on the Kuril Islands. Trutnev also serves as Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District.

A federal minister in charge of the development of the Russian Far East said in a televised interview aired on Saturday that the government wants to complete necessary work by the end of this year.

The minister expressed hope that the measure will attract investment in fisheries and tourism industries.

Japan has expressed regret over the plan. Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato Katsunobu told reporters on Monday that it runs counter to an earlier agreement by the two countries to carry out joint economic activities on the four Russian-held islands.

The Japanese government maintains that the islands are an inherent part of Japan's territory. It says the islands were illegally occupied after World War Two.