Japan gets coal, gas from historic rival Russia
A surge of goodwill from Russia to Japan raises the possibility that a territorial dispute between the two countries left over from World War II could finally be resolved.
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But in the first official sign that the Kremlin may be rethinking its enthusiasm for atomic power in the wake of Japan's catastrophe, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin today ordered Russia's Energy Ministry to suspend all building contracts for a month, while a full review is conducted.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Japan survivors
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The threat was vividly revived during last summer's heatwave, when wildfires raging across central Russia spread to the still uninhabitable Chernobyl zone, leading environmentalists to worry about radiation-laden smoke.
"Because of Chernobyl, Russia has a lot of experience with the problems of radioactive fallout" and its long-term consequences, says Dmitry Babich, an expert with the official RIA-Novosti news agency. "If the Japanese need help in this area, I'm sure Russia will be ready to provide it."
Elevated radiation levels in Russia's far east
Russian media reported slightly elevated radiation levels Tuesday in Vladivostok, which is about 500 miles from the stricken Fukushima nuclear station. But Russian nuclear experts insisted the danger is minimal, and said that winds were expected to continue blowing from Fukushima out into the Pacific Ocean for at least three more days, thus sparing populated areas.
But Russian military officials in Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands, which are closest to Japan, said Tuesday they have prepared contingency plans to evacuate local populations if the situation should grow worse.
Journalists in Russia's far eastern region report that in recent days people have bought up dosimeters, which measure radiation, and emptied pharmacies of iodine pills, which doctors recommend for preventing radiation sickness.
"People are afraid, but calm," says Marina Kononenko, editor of Kamcity, an online newspaper in the far eastern region of Kamchatka. "They are stocking up on face masks, iodine tablets, and geiger counters, and preparing for anything. But authorities aren't offering any advice or instructions, and people fear that even if there is a danger they won't tell us anything."