Estonian PM tells nation to prepare for blackouts if Russia switches off power grid

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas speaks to media after an extraordinary parliamentary session in Tallinn, Estonia July 18, 2022. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

VILNIUS, Sept 23 (Reuters) - Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas told her nation that power blackouts are possible if Russia kicks the Baltic states from the joint power grid, as she announced a snap defence readiness exercise.

"We must also be prepared for Russia might disconnect Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania from their electricity grid", she said in a televised address on Thursday evening, according to the government website.

"It would be wise to be prepared for possible power outages – that includes public authorities, companies, and every individual", she added, describing any disruptions as "temporary".

Russian embassy in Estonia said on Friday "Russia is not initating" the exit of Baltic countries from the common grid.

Almost 3,000 reservists were called to an annual week-long defence exercise in Estonia on Thursday, but the PM said there is no immediate military threat to the country.

She called on Russian citizens living in Estonia to ignore any summons to fight in Ukraine: "do not go, because there is no turning back".

Thirty years after seceding from the then-Soviet Union and 17 years since joining the EU, Baltic states Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia still depend on Russia for stable power supplies.

A 1.6-billion-euro ($1.94 billion) EU-funded project aims to disconnect the Baltic states from their common power grid with Russia and Belarus in 2025 in favour of the decentralised power system of continental Europe.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda told Reuters on June his country is ready if Russia disconnects it from the regional power grid in retaliation for blocking rail shipments of some Russian goods to Moscow's Kaliningrad exclave. read more

European power grid network ENTSO-E will connect to the Baltic states' grids within 24 hours if the countries were to be disconnected by Russia, helping avoid blackouts, Lithuanian power grid operator Litgrid said in July. read more

"If Russia disconnects us, even today, we would be ready. Our analysis shows that power supply would not be rationed, no serious disruptions expected," Litgrid Chief Executive said.

Reporting by Andrius Sytas in Vilnius; Editing by Kim Coghill and David Gregorio

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