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Lithuania, Sweden accuse Russia of disrupting energy link

They claim Russian ships are interfering with the laying of a cable under the Baltic Sea.

By Ed Adamczyk
Lithuania, Sweden accuse Russia of disrupting energy link
The 280-mile underwater electrical link will travel between Sweden and Lithuania. Photo courtesy of ABB Group

NYBRO, Sweden, May 6 (UPI) -- Sweden and Lithuania, partners on an undersea electrical cable, have protested disruptions in installation by Russian ships.

Russia has been accused of interfering with the laying of the 280-mile high-voltage Nordbalt cable in the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Lithuania, meant to integrate Scandinavian and Baltic electricity markets and ensure Lithuania's supply of electricity. Lithuania depends on Russia and Belarus for most of its energy needs.

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Sweden claims the installation has been interrupted four times by Russian warships in the past two months, most recently last week when a Russian Navy vessel ordered a ship involved in cable installation to leave the area, despite its presence in Lithuania's exclusive economic area. The departed ship was sent away for at least 10 hours.

"Sweden has discussed the matter with Russian authorities," a spokesman for Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said Saturday.

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The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry summoned the Russian foreign ambassador for a discussion, saying Russia is in violation of a maritime treaty. A statement by Lithuania said Russia claimed its actions in the Baltic Sea were a "protection of their military exercise zones."

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"Russian authorities have never asked Lithuanian institutions or received any prior authorization for such activities in exclusive economic zone of Lithuania," the statement said.

The incidents come as nations surrounding the Baltic Sea are accelerating their defense capabilities, with Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia, each a NATO member and a former Soviet republic, concerned they could be the next to be overtaken by Russia, in the manner of Crimea and Ukraine. Submarine sightings, as well as reconnaissance flights by Russian military planes, have been observed in the area. NATO countries and Sweden began submarine exercises in the nearby North Sea earlier this week, and Estonia began military and training drills this week for 13,000 of its citizens.

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