Japan has asked Russia for more energy supplies as earthquake-ravaged country is bracing for electricity shortages following the disaster, the Russian government said.
At a special meeting dedicated to the aftermath of Friday's massive 8.9-magnitude quake in Japan, Russia's powerful Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Moscow should do everything to help its neighbour which his energy deputy said had requested more gas.
"Our neighbours are faced with huge grief and tragedy," Putin told the meeting Saturday evening, saying all necessary assistance should be rendered despite "the problems which we have inherited from the past."
"This is our reliable partner of many years. We need to do everything to help Japan in this situation," he said in comments released by the government.
Bilateral ties have been strained by a row over a disputed island chain that has been unresolved since World War II.
That dispute has flared up since November when President Dmitry Medvedev paid an unexpected visit to one of the four Kuril islands which are claimed by Tokyo and collectively known in Japan as the Northern Territories.
Putin's deputy in charge of energy, Igor Sechin, said Japan had asked state-controlled gas giant Gazprom for additional liquefied natural gas supplies, adding the company was now looking how to divert two tankers, currently under other contracts, towards Japan.
"It will be two 100,000 tonne vessels," Sechin said.
Russia can send up to 500,000 tonnes of LNG to Japan this year if Japanese companies file a request and talks are held, he said.
In partnership with Japanese companies Mitsui and Mitsubishi, Gazprom operates Russia's only LNG plant on Sakhalin Island, a project known as Sakhalin-2.
Sechin also said Russia was ready to increase supplies of coal and representatives of the Siberian Coal Energy Company would go to Japan next week.
"We can ramp up supplies by three million to four million tonnes fairly quickly," he said, adding that Russia could also supply Japan with power as it has extra capacities generated in the Far East.
The Japanese government said Sunday the shutdown of several nuclear reactors after the earthquake may lead to a shortfall in electricity supply and would make power outages necessary.
In total, 11 of the roughly 50 nuclear reactors in Japan, located in the worst affected areas, were shut down following the quake.