Lithuania, Poland discuss steps to help cut Belarus' energy dependence on Russia, PM says

  • 2019-09-17
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS - Lithuania and Poland are discussing projects that could help reduce Belarus' energy dependence on Russia, Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said on Tuesday. 

Skvernelis said he discussed the issue with his Polish counterpart, Mateusz Morawiecki, who is visiting Vilnius on Tuesday. 

"We spoke about how to reduce Belarus' energy dependence on Russia, and certain decisions and projects were discussed," he said at a joint news conference. 

The prime minister did not name any specific projects, but mentioned that diversification of energy sources by using Lithuania's infrastructure is under discussion. 

"Perhaps I will not go into details, but we discussed with the (Polish) prime minister how to diversify (and) use Lithuania's infrastructure and Lithuanian companies (...), and we will certainly continue to work on this," he said.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said earlier this month that his country could start importing oil through Poland and the Baltic countries if it fails to reach a deal with Russia on charges.

Poland's Orlen owns the Baltics' sole crude refinery in Mazeikiai, in northwestern Lithuania. 

Laurynas Jonavicius, a lecturer at Vilnius University's International Relations and Political Science Institute, says Lithuania could become a route for alternative oil supplies to Belarus.

"(The oil terminal operator) Klaipedos Nafta has sufficient capacity to receive and even store oil. Lukashenko has said publicly on numerous occasions that he is looking for an alternative to Russian oil imports," Jonavicius said. "It is technically possible for Lithuania to become an alternative oil route for Belarus".  

"This may become relevant as Belarus and Russia disagree on the terms and conditions of oil supplies. While Minsk wants preferential prices, Moscow is carrying out 'a tax maneuver' that will leave Belarus with no preferences," the political scientist said. 

"As the Kremlin is putting increasing pressure on Minsk 'to deepen the integration of the Union State', an alternative oil source could give Lukashenko a starting point in his efforts not to completely succumb to Moscow's pressure," he added. 

Belarus is already holding informal talks with the US, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan on possible oil sources, according to Jonavicius.