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US to help secure Baltic energy grid against cyber attacks

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Vilnius (AFP)

The United States and Baltic states on Sunday agreed to beef up cooperation to protect the Baltic energy grid from cyber attacks as they disconnect from the Russian electricity grid.

US Energy Secretary Rick Perry and his Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian counterparts termed the agreement "a critical moment for the Baltic States in strengthening cybersecurity" in strategic energy infrastructure.

"We see a crucial role that US could play in assisting the Baltic States with strategic and technical support," the four officials said in a joint declaration signed in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius.

Lithuania said it was looking for US technology firms able to modernise software used to control energy systems to prevent attacks by Russian hackers that could disrupt energy supplies.

"Lithuanian energy sector remains a Russian cyber target, the network system is constantly being scanned for gaps, therefore we seek US security technologies in our energy production and distribution systems," Edvinas Kerza, Lithuania's top cyber security official who attended the talks with Perry, told AFP.

Energy minister Zygimantas Vaiciunas said the Baltic ministers also agreed with Perry to set up a cooperation platform for cyber security experts from all four countries within the next six months.

Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are on track to integrate into the European energy grid by 2025, breaking their dependence on the Russian grid.

Despite joining the European Union and NATO in 2004, the Baltic trio are still part of a Russian-controlled power grid -- a legacy of five decades of Soviet occupation that ended in 1991.

Perry, who is in Lithuania to attend an energy forum focused on the US and Central and Eastern Europe, sought to promote US liquified natural gas (LNG) exports to Europe.

"We hope that all the citizens of Europe recognise that we certainly look at this (US LNG exports) as a great opportunity to bring more freedom to the marketplace, more competition to the marketplace," Perry told reporters in Vilnius.

Lithuania and neighbour Poland have begun importing US LNG in a bid to bolster their energy security by reducing dependence on Russian gas supplies.

Poland's PGNiG state-run gas firm also announced last month that it was selling Ukraine's ERU energy group a shipment of LNG from the United States.

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