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2020.02.11 13:00

Baltics in talks to ban energy imports from Belarus nuclear plant

BNS2020.02.11 13:00

Other Baltic states may soon join Vilnius in blocking Belarusian energy imports once its nuclear plant becomes operational, Lithuanian Energy Minister Zygimantas Vaiciunas said on Tuesday.

Lithuania has repeatedly sought support from Brussels and its neighbours to isolate the export-orientated Astravyets nuclear plant by banning energy imports from Belarus. So far, only Poland peldged to do so. Lithuania considers the facility under construction some 50 kilometres from Vilnius to be unsafe, an allegation Minsk denies.

Read more: Belarus’ nuclear ambitions cut into Baltic unity as old scars reopen between Vilnius and Riga

"We are holding talks with Latvia and Estonia in an effort to draw up a plan for preventing electricity produced in Belarus from being imported into the Baltic countries," Vaičiūnas told the Žinių Radijas radio station.

"Seeing the atmosphere and constructiveness as well as the European Commission's involvement, I believe we are going to have a really good compromise," he added.

Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis also said last week that the Baltic countries were moving closer to a joint decision not to buy electricity from the Astravyets plant.

The three Baltic prime ministers discussed the development of the Baltic energy market at their meeting in Tallinn last Friday.

The Latvian government said last August that electricity trade would be moved to the Latvian border once Lithuania halts imports from Belarus following the launch of the Astravyets plant. the Belarusian prime minister also said in January that the two countries will allegely hold bilateral discussions on electricity trade.

Read more: Sidestepping Lithuania, Belarus to hold talks on electricity trade with Latvia

Latvia's electricity transmission grid operator AST then told BNS that the decision was aimed at ensuring that trading between the Baltic countries and Russia remains possible.

Lithuania has already taken steps to block electricity imports from the nuclear facility. Vilnius says the plant is being built in violation of international safety requirements, an allegation that Minsk denies.

Vaičiūnas said on Tuesday it was necessary to prevent "the Astravyets card from being manipulated and the Baltic grids' synchronisation [with the Continental European system] from being hampered."

The three Baltic countries are due to synchronise their power grids with the rest of continental Europe by 2025, moving off the Moscow-controlled BRELL network that also includes Belarus.

Read more: Lithuania ups energy production to switch from Moscow-controlled grid

International exports are expected to visit Belarus next month, the minister said, adding that the nuclear plant should not be launched before the stress test recommendations have been implemented.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius was told during the his visit to Belarus earlier in February that Minsk will "look at the recommendations" made by internetational experts, "and most important ones will have to be implemented before the plant is launched".

Read more: Belarus to 'look at' safety recommendations before nuclear plant launch – FM Linkevičius

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