Lithuanians Shiver Amid Accusations of Energy Blackmail From Russia
From Fox News
To save money during the harsh Baltic winter, Romanas Ziabkinas did something unremarkable: He turned off his central heating and installed a cheaper electric heater. Now he finds himself neck-deep in legal woes.
His utility company refused to recognize the switch and is suing him for some 25,000 litas ($10,000) in unpaid utility bills for his apartment in Lithuania’s capital. “Splitting from the Soviet Union was easier than leaving this heating system,” he says.
Ziabkinas plight is extreme but his frustrations over heating costs are shared by a majority of Lithuanians, who have seen prices soar over the past several years, especially since the shuttering of its only nuclear power plant in 2009, forcing the country to import more Russian gas to keep warm. Lithuania’s decision to scrap atomic power over safety concerns has put it under a new kind of threat: intimidation from Russia, which critics say shows no hesitation to use its energy dominance to bully former vassal states.
While gas prices have tended to fall globally in recent years thanks to deposits of shale gas in places like the U.S., Lithuanian households have looked on in horror in the past seven years as the retail cost of natural gas pumped from Siberia spiked 450 percent — or from $169 to $769 per 1,000 cubic meters.
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