Moscow is ready to work with Tokyo on the issue of four Russian-held islands claimed by Japan, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview released Monday. Russia captured the four islands at the southern end of the Kuril chain - known as the Northern Territories in Japan - from Japan during the closing days of World War II. Tokyo has demanded that Moscow cede all four islands, which are surrounded by rich fishing grounds. The dispute has kept the two countries from signing a peace treaty formally ending their World War II hostilities. "This situation arose as a result of World War II and has been formalized in international law, in international documents," Putin said. "But we understand the motives of our Japanese partners' behavior, we would like to get rid of all the thorns of the past and together with Japan we are looking for a solution to this issue."