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Lithuania threatens to torpedo Russian port plans

Lithuania threatened Wednesday to delay Russia’s entry to the World Trade Organization and Russia’s future agreements with the European Union, if Moscow gives a preferential treatment to its ports on the Baltic Sea.

“The possible segregation of the Baltic States’ ports from the other ports on the Baltic Sea coastline would contradict to the WTO practices of free and fair competition,” the Lithuanian foreign ministry told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa on Wednesday. “Failure to comply with the WTO practices would also affect Russia’s efforts to conclude a post-PCA agreement with the EU as quickly as possible,” a statement sent to dpa said.

Last week, Russia said it wanted to start using its own Baltic Sea port of Ust-Luga to move oil and coal products by 2015. Russia has been developing the port since 1997, so that it won’t have to use oil ports in the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. “By 2015 we will have enough capacity to ship oil products through our own ports,” said Russia’s Transport Minister Igor Levitin. At the moment, the Baltic ports handle around 80% of Russian oil products.

Russia closed the oil pipeline to Ventspils port in 2003 and stopped shipping oil to Mazeikiu oil refinery in 2006. Last year Russia drastically cut the volume of oil shipped through Port of Tallinn’s Muuga port. “We have.. a task to completely discontinue oil and coal exports through the Baltic States and increase the capacity of doing it through our ports,” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ivanov was quoted as saying during the naval issues board session of Russian government in St Petersburg. (m&c.com)