A 77-year-old former Japanese soldier returned home Friday, 52 years after he disappeared in Russia.

Toshimasa Meguro was taken prisoner in Siberia by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II.He was accused of being a spy and sentenced to eight years in prison, Japanese media reports say. After his release, he was told to remain in the region and report to police regularly.

"There was never a moment when I lost my Japanese identity," he was quoted as saying by Kyodo News service upon arriving at Niigata International Airport, 160 miles northwest of Tokyo.

The Japanese learned of his whereabouts only last November.

The veteran plans to return to Russia on April 6, after visiting his parents' grave and visiting friends, Kyodo said.