The first shipment of US oil for Belarus reached Lithuania on Friday, marking a “significant shift” for Minsk as it seeks to reduce its energy dependence on Moscow, according to Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius.
Amid standoff with Moscow over tariffs, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko previously called for a third of the country’s oil exports to come via Baltic ports. Belarus has already imported oil shipments from Saudi Arabia and Norway via Klaipėda earlier this year.
In a press statement, US Ambassador to Lithuania Robert Gilchrist said the shipment will “ultimately benefit the Belarusian people”, and called on Belarus to “undertake market-oriented, trade-liberalising reforms”.
In February, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Belarus and promised to help diversify its energy imports, which are now almost completely reliant on Russia. With the first delivery of American oil, Washington has “fulfilled the commitment” made by Pompeo, according to the US embassy in Vilnius. “Once you show that you have the possibility to diversify your sources, you are stronger in dealing with the main supplier,” Lithuania’s Energy Minister Žygimantas Vaičiūnas told Reuters.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius has previously said Belarus’ energy independence is also in the national interest of Lithuania. The country’s president, Gitanas Nausėda, has also offered Belarus to diversify its energy imports.
Lithuanian oil company Klaipėdos Nafta and Lietuvos Geležinkeliai (Lithuanian Railways) will facilitate the transportation of the US oil shipment to Belarus.