Lithuania, Belarus Row Over Train Station

Rolandas Barysas for REUTER

06/14 1329

Lithuania on Thursday rejected protests by neighboring Belarus that it was responsible for a border dispute between the two former Soviet republics -- over a remote train station and 30 meters (yards) of track.

At issue is the small station of Adutiskis, located on the north side of a branch line running along what is now an international border.

Lithuania says the station was part of its territory during the five decades when it was ruled from Moscow.

Belarusian officials say the line and the stations on it are theirs. They have also denounced Lithuania's dismantling of a 30-yard spur of track further down the line.

"We always back up our claims with documents. They show the station to be within Lithuania," Lithuania's Deputy Foreign Minister Vladislavas Domarkas told Reuters. "We are taking this fuss calmly. There is nothing that can't be resolved by talks."

Belarus dispatched a fresh diplomatic note on Tuesday concerning the additional spur, calling it a "flagrant seizure of Belarusian property." "Tension is rising. Belarus resolved its territorial questions easily with Ukraine and Latvia," Ivan Tereshko, a senior Belarusian parliamentarian, said in Minsk. "The situation with Lithuania is nothing short of absurd."

He said Belarus broke off the last round of talks after its negotiators turned up at Adutiskis to be greeted by crowds of children carrying placards reading "Welcome to Lithuania."

Borders between Soviet republics under Kremlin rule often had little meaning and more than two years after the collapse of the superpower, talks on demarcating borders continue between new states.

Disputes between Belarus and Lithuania are not new. After Lithuania's proclamation of independence in 1991, conservative Belarus claimed chunks of the Baltic republic, saying it had "voluntarily" given them up in the 1940s.

"There is no need for this fuss," said Roman Glazkov, head of Lithuanian railways. "Belarus is making a mountain out of molehill. We have dismantled 30 meters of disused line which belongs to Lithuania and is worth about 1,000 litas ($250)."

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