Baltic States End Russian Gas Imports, Urges Europe To Do Same
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Lithuania and its Baltic neighbours are urging their EU partners to join them in ending all purchases of Moscow’s “toxic” gas. Global outrage over the gruesome killing of civilians in Ukraine’s Bucha has heightened the pressure on Europe to halt its imports of Russian gas.
European leaders vowed on Monday to slap fresh sanctions on Russia following the discovery of a mass grave and tied bodies shot at close range in a northern suburb of Kyiv. But even as they recoiled in horror at the images coming from Bucha, they looked unlikely to agree to unwind the lucrative energy imports that critics say are financing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Lithuania, meanwhile jumped the gun and has done just that – announcing at the weekend that it was ending all imports of Russian gas.
“From now on, Lithuania won’t be consuming a cubic cm of toxic Russian gas,” Ingrida Simonyte, the country’s prime minister, wrote on Twitter on Sunday, hailing her country as the first EU member “to refuse Russian gas imports”.
The announcement was celebrated as a milestone in achieving energy independence in the former Soviet republic of 2.8 million. It capped a remarkable turnaround for a country that imported almost all of its gas from Russia as recently as 2015. Like its fellow Baltic states, Lithuania was once heavily reliant on Russian energy imports. But the situation has changed dramatically since 2014, when the country launched a liquid natural gas (LNG) terminal, aptly named “Independence”, in the port city of Klaipeda.
While Latvia and Estonia don’t have an LNG terminal of their own, discussions are under way to build one in partnership with Finland. In the meantime, the operator of Latvia’s natural gas storage facility has said they will rely on existing reserves to also halt imports from Russia.
Meanwhile, the United States says it will work to supply 15 billion cubic metres of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to the European Union this year to help it wean off Russian energy supplies, the transatlantic partners said on Friday.
The EU is aiming to cut its dependency on Russian gas by two-thirds this year and end all Russian fossil fuel imports by 2027 due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia supplies around 40% of Europe’s gas needs. Germany, the EU’s biggest importer of Russian gas, said it has made “significant progress” towards reducing its exposure to imports of Russian gas, oil and coal. However, German’s Economic Minister Robert Habeck also said it could take until the summer of 2024 for Europe’s largest economy to wean itself off Russian gas.