Lithuania’s Interior Ministry plans to hold drills and assess the need to evacuate Vilnius’ residents in case of an accident at the Astravyets nuclear plant in Belarus, located some 50 kilometres from the Lithuanian capital.
"That will be one of the key questions during the drafting of the exercises schedule and probably going back to the scenarios: do we or do we not need to evacuate Vilnius residents,” Vitalij Dmitrijev, vice minister of the interior, told LRT RADIO.
The so-called Astravyets drill was held in October 2019 in Vilnius and Svenčionys districts, which are located close to the Belarusian border. During the exercises, authorities prepared to evacuate people from radiation-affected territories, distribute iodine pills, as well as simulated a resident cleanup and monitoring operation.
The exercise involved around 300 officers, troops and civil servants from six municipalities and 24 institutions. Due to a dispute over the exercise scenario with the Vilnius authorities, officers from the capital did not take part in the drills.
Previously, the Vilnius authorities cancelled another exercise, planned in early September, to simulate an accident at the nuclear power plant in Belarus.
Based on the information available to BNS, Vilnius Municipality faced resistance from the government at the time.
Lithuanian officials say that the nuclear power plant built by the Russian state atomic corporation Rosatom and funded by a loan from the Kremlin was built in breach of international safety standards. Minsk denies all accusations.
Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are also due to unplug from the Moscow-controlled energy grid that links them with Belarus. Vilnius says that the Kremlin may use the plant to derail the move.