VILNIUS - One Polish worker died and another was seriously injured in an accident May 22 at a troubled Mazeikiu Nafta oil refinery. According to reports, a metal pipe fell on two workers, aged 55 and 51, both of whom were from Poland, while they were in the process of dismantling coils at the furnace radiation chamber.
One died and the other was hospitalized, refinery officials said. The injured man was evacuated to a Klaipeda hospital.
The accident took place less than two weeks after Lithuanian prosecutors accused two U.S. executives running the refinery of failing to carry out proper maintenance work, which in turn led to a fire last October.
The fire caused 131 million litas ($38 million) in damages and caused throughput at the refinery to plunge. Though most of the repairs have been made, the refinery has yet to return to its pre-fire levels of oil throughput.
CEO Paul Nelson English and his deputy, Barton Lee Luck, have been barred from leaving Lithuania for the duration of the investigation. They have reportedly denied the charges leveled against them.
Mazeikiu Nafta, Lithuania's largest corporation, was sold last year to Poland's PKN Orlen, Eastern Europe's largest gasoline retailer, for $2.3 billion. Russia was angered by the sale, and in July Moscow ceased all pipeline deliveries to the refinery, claiming a pipeline accident in Belarus.
Since then Mazeikiu Nafta has been forced to import crude oil via a terminal on the Baltic Sea, which is significantly more expensive.
Lithuanian politicians say the cut-off in supplies was punitive since Moscow did not hide its desire to see a Russian oil company take over the refinery.
"Both Lithuania and the EU have offered help in seeking technical solutions to the problem," Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas told a London energy conference on May 21. (See Page 15 for text of speech.) "Regretfully, Russia has declined this offer," he added.
In the run-up to last week's EU-Russia summit, Lithuanian officials said they would consider revoking their approval of a major bilateral trade agreement if Brussels didn't put pressure on Moscow to renew oil supplies.