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When answering the question on the letter of Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis to the Belarusian Prime Minister, Foreign Affairs Minister Linas Linkevičius said the untruth that the decision to build the Bielorusskaja AES in the Astravyets district was allegedly adopted at the end of 2008, a press release from the Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats states.
Astravyets NPP
© Sputnik / Scanpix

Mr Linkevičius said the following: "The decision to build the Astravyets nuclear power plant was officially announced on 20 December 2008. And I very much stress that it was December 2008. In 2009, the officials from the Ministries of Economy had a joint meeting and signed a protocol stating that the Belarusian side announced a possibility of supplying electricity to Lithuania. May I remind you that the construction started in 2009. These are the kind of wordings as regards cooperation, which appear in the minutes of our officials. On 1 July 2010, the Prime Ministers' communication informed of the agreement and readiness to cooperate in the field of nuclear energy."

The official website of the Belarusian Ministry of Energy (see http: //minenergo.gov.by/o_ministerstve/yadernaya_energetika/stroitelstvo_atomnoy_elektrostancii/)

clearly points out that the decision on the selection of the site for the construction of the NPP was taken on 17 September 2011 and that the President's decree on the construction of the NPP on this particular site was adopted as late as on 2 November 2013, when the Government led by Algirdas Butkevičius was already in power.

Žygimantas Pavilionis, Member of the Homeland Union - Lithuanian Christian Democrat Political Group of the Seimas, said that as far back as on 4 April 2010, Lithuania stated, in the harmonisation report on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), that it is unequivocally opposed to the construction of the NPP on the site in Astravyets. On the basis of this report, Lithuania subsequently filed a complaint with the competent body monitoring the implementation of the Espoo Convention as regards the violation of the Convention.

"In response to the claims that Lithuania did not do its utmost against the construction of the Astravyets NPP during the previous governments, we want to highlight that our three most important measures available today either have been forged or have been initiated by the ruling conservative Government or have been developed by the conservatives and approved by the Seimas," noted Mr Pavilionis, Member of the Seimas.

Laurynas Kasčiūnas, Member of the Homeland Union - Lithuanian Christian Democrat Political Group of the Seimas and Member of the Committee on National Security and Defence, underlined that the Committee obtained formal conclusions that Rosatom had actually announced about the launch of the construction of the Astravyets NPP only in January 2013 after Lithuania had voted against the construction of the Visaginas NPP in the referendum.

"The active campaign against the construction of the Visaginas NPP by the leader of the Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union sent a decisive signal for Rosatom to start the construction of the NPP in Belarus, in the very vicinity of Vilnius. Therefore, the current attempt to assert the obvious untruth and distort the facts is pure disinformation. It does not, however, come as a surprise because the same methods were used by the Farmers and Greens Union in its campaign against the construction of the Visaginas NPP," said Mr Kasčiūnas.

Mr Pavilionis also recalled that the Homeland Union - Lithuanian Christian Democrats had initiated the collection of Lithuanian citizens' signatures against the construction of the Astravyets NPP and obtained a mandate of the Lithuanian people to prevent the trade in electricity generated by the unsafe Astravyets NPP in Belarus. It is obvious, however, that Prime Minister Skvernelis' stance makes it possible to evade the implementation of the laws as the absence of coordination of the government position with the key national institutions undermines both the national foreign policy and the EU coalition against the Astravyets NPP.

The aforementioned parliamentarians listed the key measures of the Seimas and the Government, which were most effective in stopping the construction of the Astravyets NPP. All of these measures were taken on the initiative of either the Government led by Andrius Kubilius or the conservatives.

1. The final decision taken by the Parties to the Espoo Convention in February 2019 on violation of the Espoo Convention by Belarus originated from the detailed 61-page report on the environmental impact assessment prepared by the Lithuanian Government in May 2010 and later presented to Belarus.

The report formally expressed unequivocal opposition to the selection of the site for the construction of a nuclear power plant very close to Vilnius without taking into account the potential damage in the case of a major accident that would affect Vilnius and without providing for any emergency action in this regard.

The Belarusian side was also informed that the construction site had been selected in violation of the international Espoo Convention and the EIA procedures. Moreover, Belarus was handed over a petition with 23,000 signatures against the choice of the current construction site.

2. In July 2018, the EU endorsed a report on the EU stress tests as regards the construction of the Astravyets NPP, also providing for a detailed list of recommendations that should be implemented by the Belarusian authorities. The list will allow us to demand that the NPP is put into operation only after all the recommendations are implemented.

The EU adopted its decisions on stress tests as early as in 2011. In mid-March 2011, Alexander Lukashenko and Vladimir Putin had a meeting, where they had agreed on the terms of the loan of USD 10 billion for the construction of the Astravyets NPP. Following this meeting, Mr Kubilius declared that Lithuania intended to raise the issues as regards the construction of NPPs in Belarus and Kaliningrad within the framework of the EU and the OSCE. On 23 March 2011, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė convened the State Defence Council for a meeting in camera, which, among other issues, also discussed Lithuania's position on the Astravyets NPP to be defended at the forthcoming European Council.

Several days later, the European Council endorsed Lithuania's proposals for carrying out stress tests in respect of all NPPs located inside and outside the EU. The approval was also given to our demand for subjecting all existing and planned NPPs to stress tests. The European Commission was mandated to develop a specific concept as to the extent of application of the EU's nuclear safety requirements in neighbouring countries, taking into account the results of stress tests and compliance of their NPPs with international obligations.

3. In May 2017, the Seimas approved the so-called anti-Astravyets Law, which recognised the Astravyets NPP as being unsafe and posing a threat to Lithuania's national security and banned electricity imports from countries (Belarus) with unsafe power plants.

The Law was deliberated by the Seimas after over 50,000 Lithuanian citizens had signed to demand to hold deliberations of this type of legislation. The conservatives were behind the preparation of the original draft law and the collection of the necessary signatures.