Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that he will definitely one day visit the Southern Kuril Islands which are at the centre of a dispute with Japan that has lasted since World War Two.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that he will definitely one day visit the Southern Kuril Islands which are at the centre of a dispute with Japan that has lasted since World War Two.

Soviet troops seized the four islands off Japan’s Hokkaido at the end of World War Two and they have remained in Moscow’s hands, preventing the two countries signing a peace treaty.

The islands are known by Japan as the Northern Territories.

At a meeting in the Russian Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk on Thursday, Putin was asked about Kunashir Island, which is one of the Southern Kurils.

Putin said that tourism should be developed on the islands.

“They say it is very interesting there,” Putin said, according to a Kremlin transcript. “I have never once been there, unfortunately – I will definitely go there.”

Located in the northwestern Pacific Ocean, the Kuril islands stretch for 1,250 km from the southern tip of Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula southwards to the Japanese island of Hokkaido, forming a neat boundary between the Sea of Okhotsk to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east.

Vladimir Putin has complained his old friends no longer recognise him amid speculation the Russian President regularly uses body doubles.

Putin, 71, made his grievances clear as he addressed an audience in Russia’s Chukotka region.

He said: “When I [very occasionally] meet my classmates or fellow university students, they often look at me and say – ‘I don’t believe it, is it actually you, or not you?’

“You see, a person doesn’t always know how they would behave when they find themselves at a certain level of responsibility.”

However, Putin’s comments come after years of speculation about his health.

It has even been suggested the Russian President uses body doubles.

Dr Valery Solovey, a former professor at Moscow’s Institute of International Relations, went even further by claiming the 71-year-old is dead.

He has previously claimed Putin has been fully replaced by doppelgangers.

Dr Solovey believes Putin died in October 2023 with his body stored in a freezer.

He argues security chief Nikolai Patrushev is secretly running the Kremlin.

Dr Solovey said: “The so-called ‘Putin’ publicly complained that his friends no longer recognised him and believed that they were dealing with a double.”

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Defending his extraordinary claim, he told Ukrainian TV: “He is in a freezer. He was moved in December to a new refrigerator…to one designed to store bodies.

“That’s the only change that applies to him after his death [in October].

“There were no other changes. So all of the information I have given you remains the same. And there’s no chance of him being resurrected.”

Solovey believes Putin’s speculated death will be announced later this year.

He also claimed Dmitry Patrushev, who will serve as Russian Prime Minister, will succeed him.

Speculation about Putin’s health and the Kremlin’s alleged use of body doubles has been ramping up since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was forced to comment on the matter in October.

He said: “Everything is fine with him, this is absolutely another fake [rumour].”

Peskov laughed in response to further questions, adding: “I can tell you there are no doubles when it comes to work and so on.”

He continued: “These [kinds of stories] belong to the category of fake news, discussed with enviable tenacity by a number of media outlets. This brings nothing but a smile [in the Kremlin].”