Lithuania: Hatching plan to outrun Russia energy blockade

In a scene reminiscent of the Berlin Airlift during the Cold War, Lithuania's president said Tuesday he is working on a plan to circumvent Russia's energy hold on Eastern Europe by opening a port for oil transports from elsewhere.

Lithuania along with Belarus and Ukraine were "looking at alternative routes" using sea transport of energy supplies through its Baltic port of Klaipeda, Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus told reporters in Washington.

The oil would come from Norway, Venezuela and elsewhere and be shipped via rail to "cover the immediate needs for everyone," Adamkus said.

Adamkus, who said he had discussed the plan with US Vice President Dick Cheney, was responding to a question posed by Belarus' ambassador to Washington, who participated in the press conference.

The US is critical of anti-democracy trends in Belarus, but Adamkus defended supplying both Ukraine and Belarus on humanitarian grounds.

"Belarus is affected as much as Ukraine in the manipulations by Mr. (Russian President Vladimir) Putin," Adamkus said. "This is not aimed at supporting a regime but rather responding to the needs of the Belarus people."

Earlier, Adamkus issued a press statement from Washington calling on the European Union to present a common front to Russia on matters of energy and democracy. Adamkus met with US President George Bush on Monday.

The Berlin Airlift was launched by the US and its allies to supply West Berlin with food and other humanitarian necessities after the Russians blockaded rail and street access across East Germany in June 1948. It was one of the first major crises of the Cold War.