Russia throws down Druzhba gauntlet

  • 2008-10-01
  • By Adam Mullett
VILNIUS - Russian Ambassador to Lithuania, Vladimir Chkhikvadze, has challenged the government to help pay for repairs to the Druzhba gas pipeline inside Russia.  The pipeline closed down two years ago. The issue is significant as Lithuania faces an energy crisis.
"It's pure business. If Lithuania is ready to contribute several tens of millions of dollars for the repairs of the pipeline, it could be reopened," Chkhikvadze told reporters after a meeting with parliamentary foreign affairs committee on Sept. 30.
The ambassador made the comment to respond to a suggestion by Seimas Committee Chairman Justinas Karosas.

However according to executives at Mazeikiu Nafta Baltic oil refinery which would be at the center of any deal, Chkhikvadze's words were just political rhetoric.
"This is a political statement 's this is not business," Mazeikiu Nafta Communications Department Director Rosvaldas Gorbacovas told The Baltic Times.

The Russian ambassador is still confident that a deal would be struck at some point. 
"If Lithuania's businessmen come with specific proposals, ready to invest, we could have a dialogue. I do not want to say that a positive decision will be taken. But this question may be considered - why not? However, the pipeline has more than 4,000 defects today, so people should think whether it is worthwhile to deal with it or not," the ambassador said.

According to the ambassador fixing Druzhba would benefit Lithuania and help improve relations between the two countries.
"If you need - we do not need it. We need Nord Stream," Chkhikvadze said.
Gorbacovas said they had heard no concrete proposals.
"We heard just words 's if you want to deal then we need more in depth information like technical proposals and business proposals," was his message to the Russian government.
Currently Mazeikiu Nafta has other means to support its business and transport oil, but said they would be interested in the pipeline if a proposal was tabled.

The Ministry of Economy denied the issue was political and it would have to be dealt with in a commercial capacity. "If this would cost 10 million litas or one billion litas, that is a point, but this can only be dealt with by Mazeikiu Nafta," Ministry representative Ricardas Slapsys said.
Druzhba pipeline was shut down in July 2006 allegedly for technical reasons after the sale of Mazeikiu Nafta, the sole Baltic oil refinery, to Poland's oil company PKN Orlen.

The Druzhba pipeline is the world's longest oil pipeline that carries oil 4000 kilometers from southeast Russia to points in Ukraine, Hungary, Poland, and Germany. The name "Druzhba" means "friendship," because the pipeline was intended to supply oil to the western regions of the Soviet Union.
NordStream is the offshore pipeline between Vyborg, Russia, and Greifswald, Germany. The project is highly controversial, for both environmental concerns and national security risks.