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2020.06.04 14:34

Kremlin may threaten nuclear incidents in Belarus to blackmail Lithuania – MP

Vaida Kalinkaitė-Matuliauskienė, LRT.lt2020.06.04 14:34

Lithuania's failure to block nuclear energy imports from Belarus could seriously impede the Baltic states’ switch away from the Moscow-controlled power grid, according to Lithuanian MP Dainius Kreivys. 

The switch to the continental European system, scheduled to take place by 2025, is considered a strategic project by the EU and Lithuania and critical to the energy independence of the Baltic states.

Lithuania is currently attached to the Moscow-controlled BRELL network, which also includes the Baltic states and Belarus.

Read more: ‘We did nothing’. Lithuanian president says Belarus’ nuclear plant here to stay

At the same time, Lithuania has been campaiging for a Baltic boycott of electricity imports from the Astravyets Nuclear Power Plant in Belarus which, according to Vilnius, is unsafe and breaches international safety rules.

Moreover, it could jeopardise the Baltic states' plans to switch to the European network, according to the conservative MP Kreivys. The Kremlin could say that by disconnecting from the current grid, the instability in the power network could lead to a nuclear accident.

“And they will blackmail us [Lithuania], the European Commission and everyone else,” Kreivys said on Wednesday during a discussion with the energy minister.

Therefore, he called for an agreement to block imports of Belarusian electricity in all the three Baltic states at an early stage to prevent the situation from escalating in the future.

While Lithuania has passed a law banning Belarusian electricity imports once the Astravyets NPP becomes operational later this year, Latvia and Estonia have been reluctant to join the boycott.

On Wednesday, opposition MPs and the energy minister, as well as the government, discussed a draft resolution which would see the Baltic states support “Lithuania’s decision not to buy electricity from Belarus”, without pledging to join the boycott.

During the discussion, the country’s energy minister, Žygimantas Vaičiūnas, said there were three options on the table – one where the Baltic states jointly block energy from Belarus, one where Estonia and Latvia support Lithuania’s decision not to import electricity from Belarus, and one where there’s no deal.

The second option, according to MP Kreivys, would mean that Belarusian nuclear energy continues to flow via Lithuania to Estonia and Latvia due to the common energy market. Lithuania is the only country that has direct connections with Belarus that are used by the other Baltic states under an agreement signed in 2012.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius and several other officials have also called on the government to reject the draft declaration.

Read more: Critics fear Lithuania may ‘capitulate’ in the fight against Belarusian nuclear plant

The Astravyets NPP is located some 50 kilometres from Vilnius and around 15 kilometres from the Lithuanian border.

Vilnius officials say the plant fails to meet international safety standards and is a political tool for the Kremlin. Minsk rejects all allegations.

The Lithuanian government didn’t reach an agreement on Wednesday, with officials reiterating the need to continue seeking a joint Baltic position with the support of the European Commission. Vaičiūnas also said he's open to other proposals.