Vilnius indignant over Russia's oil plans

  • 2003-02-13

The European Commission plans to ask Russia to present information about LUKoil's plans to extract oil in the Baltic Sea near the Curonian Spit, one of the most picturesque areas in the Baltic states.

The EC will consider the possibility of preparing an assessment of environmental impact of oil extraction off the spit, a long, narrow stretch of dunes and forests spanning from Lithuania to Kaliningrad Oblast that attracts tens of thousands of tourists annually.

The EC's intentions have been spelled out in a letter sent to the Lithuania's Environment Ministry by the European Commission Environment Directorate.

According to the letter, in March the EU and Russia will hold a subcommittee meeting to discuss the issues of energy, environment and nuclear energy safety, where Russia will be required to present relevant information about the so-called D-6 project off the Curonian Spit.

"The European Commission's ideas give us hope that Russia will demolish the wall it surrounded itself with," said Lithuania's Environment Ministry in a statement. "Lithuania has been permanently asking Russia to present clear and thorough information about D-6 project and its environmental safety. Our invitation to start a dialogue remains unanswered."

Lithuania has expressed indignation about LUKoil's plans to start extracting oil in the D-6 oil field in late 2003.

Russia's Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources has not responded to the invitation of the Environment Ministry to hold a Russian and Lithuanian experts' meeting to discuss the environmental safety of the project in the near future.

The D-6 oil field is on the bed of the Baltic Sea, 22 kilometers off the Curonian Spit and 7 kilometers from the Lithuanian-Russian maritime border.

Lithuanian environmentalists have repeatedly expressed concern over the project's ecological safety. Greens believe that industrial extraction of oil close to the unique piece of nature, which is listed in the UNESCO list of world heritage, could violate its ecologic system.

Meanwhile, representatives of Russian LUKoil's daughter enterprise LUKoil-Kaliningradmorneft, which will utilize the oil deposit, maintain the project is safe and the possibility of accidents is extremely low.

LUKoil plans to utilize the oil field for some 25 - 30 years, while the amount of oil extracted per year is expected to reach 1 million tons.