BERLIN — Lithuania has stopped importing natural gas from Russia from April and will be able to rely on deliveries from other countries to meet its energy needs, the country’s president announced on Saturday, saying the move was a example for the other members of the European Union.
Prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the EU was looking for ways to reduce its reliance on Russian fossil fuels, including coal and oil, but especially gas. Nearly 40% of the block’s total natural gas came from Russia. But since Moscow ordered tanks from Ukraine on Feb. 24, member states have been looking more actively for ways to reduce their gas needs.
“If we can do it, the rest of Europe can do it too,” said Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda. Twitter Saturday.
While Lithuania is a small country with only 2.8 million people and an economy more dependent on trade than industry, it is the largest economy in the Baltic States and also a member of the Eurozone. So while the loss of Lithuania as a customer is unlikely to significantly harm Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned energy group, the decision has geopolitical significance by setting a precedent for the EU.
“I think this is a symbolic step on the part of Lithuania, which has long been trying to be at the forefront of reducing and potentially eliminating its dependence on Russian gas,” Katja said. Yafimava, senior researcher at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies. She added that Germany, France and Italy could not easily make a similar move because they depend on much higher volumes of Russian gas and are bound by long-term contracts.
Lithuania borders Russia’s Kaliningrad territory and was once entirely dependent on Russian gas imports – a legacy of the country’s history as part of the former Soviet Union. But the construction of a liquefied natural gas terminal in 2014 allowed it to begin to move away from dependence on Russia.
Last week, President Vladimir V. Putin threatened to cut gas supplies to “hostile countries” unless the countries started paying for supplies in roubles. European leaders rejected the idea, but it was still unclear how the impasse could be resolved. Germany and Italy, in particular, are heavily dependent on Russian gas, although Germany has recently entered into partnerships with the United States and other energy-rich countries.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called on EU countries to stop buying gas from Russia, going so far as to urge Qatar and other energy producers to increase their gas exports to Europe in part of a campaign to reduce the continent’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels.
Earlier this year, Lithuania’s energy minister said the country was able to order enough LNG to meet its energy needs. If necessary, it can also receive gas deliveries via a connection with Latvia.
“We are the first EU country among Gazprom supplier countries to achieve independence from Russian gas supply, and this is the result of a consistent energy policy over several years and timely infrastructure decisions,” Dainius Kreivys, the country’s energy minister, said in a statement on Saturday. .