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Lithuania: Belarusian nuclear plant is threat to safety

Lithuania on Thursday called a nuclear power plant under construction in Belarus a threat to the Baltic republic.

Lithuanian lawmakers voted to declare that the plant in Atsravets, some 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of Vilnius, poses a threat to the environment, living standards and public health.

Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis has called it "one of the biggest threats to our country," adding it fails to meet international standards.

During the construction that started in 2001, there have been casualties and incidents, include one when a reactor fell to the ground, according to Lithuania. It is scheduled to open in late 2017 or 2018.

Belarusian deputy environment minister Iya Malkina said Thursday construction will continue.

"We are open to our colleagues and neighbors, calling on them for dialogue and we will continue to do this," she told journalists.

Liliya Dulinets, a spokeswoman for the Belarusian atomic energy department, said experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency have said "all standards have been observed," adding a copy of the report will be sent to the European Union.

But there are critics of the project within Belarus, who are particularly concerned about the involvement of Russia's national nuclear agency Rosatom and constructor Atomstroieksport.

"Belarus needs a nuclear energy plant, but not in this location and not with these partners who always use energy as an instrument of blackmail," Stanislav Shushkevich, the first leader of post-Soviet Belarus, told The Associated Press.

Lithuania closed its sole nuclear power plant after joining the EU in 2004.