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Lithuania stops Baltics power trade with Belarus, Russia over nuclear plant

VILNIUS (Reuters) - Lithuanian transmission system operator Litgrid has ceased all power trading with Belarus, saying on Tuesday it had detected the start of production at Belarus’ Astravets nuclear power plant which Vilnius deems unsafe.

Lithuania bans imports of power from nuclear power plants it deems unsafe, such as Astravets, an allegation which Belarus denies.

“Astravets is a geopolitical project, but the ban is meant to reduce motivation for it, to keep it from becoming profitable,” Lithuanian Energy Minister Zygimantas Vaiciunas told reporters.

“At the moment, the law keeps Belarus from getting money from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia”.

The decision also bans Baltics power trade with mainland Russia, which exports its power to Lithuania via Belarus. Power imported from Russia’s Kaliningrad enclave, which borders Lithuania and Poland, is not affected.

There was no immediate reaction from Moscow and Minsk.

Lithuania is the entry point for Russian and Belarus power exports to the Baltic States, which also include Latvia and Estonia.

Russian electricity import and export monopoly InterRAO said that the termination of trade with Belarus by Lithuania “was no surprise”. The company planned to continue supplying Russian electricity to the Baltic states market in the open commercial section with Latvia, it said in a statement.

Latvian transmission system operator Augstspriegumu Tikls (AST) said in a note to NordPool power market it plans to restart trade with Russia on Nov. 5.

Separately, the Latvian government on Tuesday voted to ban sales of Belarus energy in the country, and said it would require origin certificates for any Russian power imports, separating them from Belarus power, the local BNS newswire reported.

Reporting by Andrius Sytas. Additional reporting by Anastasia Lyrchikova. Editing by Helena Soderpalm and Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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