Lithuanian president defends formin amid opposition’s criticism over Belarus’ N-plant

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Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda has expressed his support for Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius who is facing the opposition’s criticism for his allegedly insufficient efforts regarding Belarus’ Astravyets Nuclear Power Plant.

Nauseda said in a statement on Monday that the minister properly represents Lithuania’s national interests in seeking a broader dialog with Minsk.

The conservative Homeland Union–Lithuanian Christian Democrats has said recently that the almost completed nuclear power plant “is being gradually legitimized in Lithuania by its official foreign policy makers and executors”.

According to the opposition party, Linkevicius has done too little to prevent the unsafe nuclear facility from being built close to the Lithuanian border and, therefore, should step down.

In his statement, Nauseda reiterated that the Astravyets plant does not meet international standards and poses a threat to Lithuania’s national security.

“We call on Belarus to immediately implement the nuclear safety standards set by international experts for the Astravyets NPP,” he said.

Nauseda said that all national, regional and EU-level capabilities must be mobilized to force Minsk to observe the principles of openness, transparency and good neighborliness in implementing the project.

He added, however, that there is a risk that these levers will not be used effectively if Lithuania continues to refrain from any cooperation with Belarus.

According to the president, Lithuania is raising the Astravyets plant safety issue in all bilateral meetings with EU member states’ leaders and in EU institutions.

“The head of state supports the government’s actions regarding the Astravyets NPP and calls for efforts to achieve EU-level protection against threats posed by unsafe nuclear power plants in third countries as well as to ensure that electricity produced in these plants is not purchased,” the statement reads.

“This means that all future EU agreements with Belarus must reflect Lithuania’s position on the Astravyets NPP.”

The Lithuanian government says the Astravyets plant under construction some 50 kilometers from Vilnius and less than 30 kilometers from the Lithuanian border fails to meet international safety and environmental standards, an allegation that Minsk denies.

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