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Lithuania presses Russia over nuclear plant

Lithuania on Thursday stepped up pressure on neighbour Russia over plans to build a nuclear power plant near the Baltic state, insisting its safety concerns had not been met.

Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis said he had raised Lithuania’s unanswered concerns during a visit by Nikolai Tsukanov, governor of Russia’s Kaliningrad territory where the plant is set to be located.

“There are no numbers, no facts. Only the statements ‘We are open, we will provide all the information’, which are nice promises that have nothing to do with today’s reality,” Azubalis told journalists after his meeting.

“Lithuania is asking not for assurances but for answers based on numbers and facts,” he added.

Tsukanov dismissed the concerns, saying Russia’s state nuclear conglomerate Rosatom had assured him the plant, meant to be online by 2016, would have the “the safest reactor in the world”.

Vilnius repeatedly has criticised the planned plant in Kaliningrad — a Russian Baltic Sea territory nestled between Lithuania and Poland — as well as one set to be built in neighbouring Belarus.

It has faulted environmental impact assessments and expressed fears about proximity to Lithuanian cities. The site of the planned plant in Belarus is just 50 kilometres (40 miles) from the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, for example.

Lithuania shut down its only nuclear plant — a Soviet-era facility — in 2009 under the terms of its 2004 European Union entry.

It aims to build a new one by 2020 with fellow ex-communist EU members Poland, Latvia and Estonia, but progress has been sluggish.