Belarus has officially opened its first nuclear power plant in the face of criticism from neighbouring Lithuania.
President Alexander Lukashenko cut the ribbon at the Astravyets plant on Saturday, saying it “will serve as an impetus for attracting the most advanced technologies to the country, and innovative directions in science and education”.
But the plant is just 40 kilometres southeast of Lithuania’s capital Vilnius, and the country’s power operator Litgrid cut the inflow of electricity from Belarus on Tuesday, the day Astravyets began producing electricity.
The move was in line with a law banning electricity imports from Belarus once the plant began operations.
Lithuanian authorities say the project has been plagued by accidents, stolen materials and mistreatment of workers.
But Rosatom, the Russian state nuclear corporation that built the plant, said its design conformed to the highest international standards and had been endorsed by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The opening came amid further protests against Lukashenko’s rule, with dozens of demonstrators detained by police in Minsk on Saturday.
There have been three months of anti-government protests in Belarus since a presidential election in August gave Lukashenko 80% of the vote — a result the opposition and external observers say was manipulated.