FILE - Kunashiri Island, one of four islands known as the Southern Kuriles in Russia and Northern Territories in Japan
FILE - Kunashiri Island, one of four islands known as the Southern Kuriles in Russia and Northern Territories in Japan.

Russia has released five Japanese fishing boats and their 24 crewmen after detaining them for a week for allegedly violating fishing agreements near a group of disputed islands.  

The five ships and their crews were accused of exceeding their catch quota for octopus when they were detained on December 17.  The boats were released after a Russian court ordered the crews to pay a fine of $100,000.  

The ships were seized near a group of islands in Japan's northern region of Hokkaido.  Known in Russia as the Southern Kuriles, the islands were seized by forces of the former Soviet Union in the final days of World War Two.  Japan continues to claim the island chain, which it calls the Northern Territories.  

The ongoing dispute over the islands has kept Moscow and Tokyo from reaching a formal peace treaty ending World War II.