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Russia warns Lithuania against closing Kaliningrad railroad

RIA Novosti

30/08/2006 12:36 MOSCOW, August 30 (RIA Novosti) - Comments made by Lithuanian officials that a railroad leading to Russia's exclave on the Baltic might be closed for repairs could seriously affect bilateral relations, a deputy Russian foreign minister said Wednesday.

Lithuania said it was ready to start repairing a section of a busy railroad passing through its territory to Russia's Kaliningrad Region, which is hemmed in between the Baltic state and Poland, after Siberian crude supplies to its Mazeikiu refinery were disrupted by a July 29 accident on a major oil pipeline.

"Comments made by some Lithuanian officials about the possibility of 'political repairs' being launched on the Kaliningrad-bound railroad are not only groundless but also provocative," Vladimir Titov said.

The railroad, which presents a relatively cheap form of travel in comparison to airlines, is a lifeline for many Russians who wish to travel to relatives in the Kaliningrad Region.

Titov said it was regrettable that the accident on the Druzhba (Friendship) oil pipeline, which runs from Russia to central Europe, had caused so much speculation. A spillage of 48 cubic meters of oil covered an area of 340 meters in the western Bryansk Region and prompted operator Transneft to consider replacing the 42-year-old pipeline.

The deputy foreign minister condemned the conjectures about repairs, saying they could damage relations between the former Soviet stable mates, which have rarely run smoothly since the collapse of the U.S.S.R.

"The people behind such ideas should realize that such threats are fraught with the most serious consequences for relations between our countries," he said.

Titov said it was impossible to resume the pipeline's operation on the previous scale until the causes of the accident had been established and measures taken to avoid an environmental disaster.

The section that suffered the accident is part of the world's largest pipeline. Built in the Soviet era, it pumps Siberian oil from Samara in southeastern Russia about 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles) into former communist-bloc countries, such as Hungary and the Czech Republic, as well as Lithuania.

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