By Duncan Mackay

Khodynka_ArenaMarch 22 - Russia today formally declared itself a bidder to host this year's World Figure Skating Championships following the withdrawal of Japan due to the earthquake and tsunami that has devastated the country.

They have written to the International Skating Union (ISU) putting forward Moscow as a replacement for Tokyo.

"Today we sent a formal letter to the International Skating Union, telling them of our desire to stage the competition in Moscow," Valentin Piseyev, executive director of the Russian Figure Skating Federation, said.

Russia is one of several countries who have offered to step in as replacements, including Vancouver, which hosted last year's Winter Olympics.

The others are Colorado Springs and Lake Placid in the United States, Turku in Finland and unnamed cities in Austria and France.

But Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has revealed his country would be willing to cover all the costs of staging the event in Moscow.

"I think we could give a helping hand to our Japanese colleagues as well as the [ISU]," Putin told Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko during a meeting.

"We are not demanding anything, it's more of a goodwill gesture by us.

"It wouldn't cost much, so we could cover all the expenses ourselves."

Moscow has proposed the 14,000-seat Hodynka arena, built in 2007 to host that year's ice hockey World Championship, as the venue.

The Russian capital last hosted the World Figure Skating Championships in 2005 at the old Luzhniki ice palace.

Last week, the ISU said it was seeking applications to stage the championships after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami left more than 21,000 people dead or missing.

Canada, Italy, Finland and the United States have also expressed interest.

The ISU set today as the deadline for submitting applications and plans to announce the decision in a few days.

"Based on spontaneous proposals from ISU Member federations received to host the Championships and possibly additional members who might be interested and available, the ISU Council is evaluating the different options taking into account all relevant aspects and points of view," they said on their website.

"This primarily involves the tremendous logistical challenge to organize and conduct such major event on short notice.

"Also, the [ISU] Council cannot ignore legal and contractual constraints as well as timing conflicts with other skating or sporting events.

"The ISU Council is conscious that a solution satisfying all points of view is probably difficult to be achieved and begs all involved for their understanding and cooperation in these truly exceptional circumstances."

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