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Clean-up Operation on Big Oil Spill in Baltic

Kaliningrad, May 31 (RFE/RL) - Russian officials in the Baltic region of Kaliningrad report a big oil spill in the Baltic Sea - but accounts differ on its extent.

Igor Pashutin, a local maritime official, tells our Moscow correspondent that the beaches from neighbouring Lithuania to Poland are heavily polluted. The official said about 150 tons of oil is now in the Baltic, and that Russian military are trying to clean-up the region.

Reports say the spill is believed to have occurred about a week ago, but first accounts were reported only yesterday. As late as today, Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry and environmental officials in Kaliningrad had said they could not confirm accounts of the spill.

The source of the spill is not yet known. But, the local maritime official in Kaliningrad region said it is believed the spill came from an unidentified tanker, which was sailing from Lithuania's port of Klaipeda to the Dutch port of Rotterdam.

Lithuania officials say the spill has reached Lithuania waters, and has polluted about 40 kms of shoreline, but not the country's resort beaches. Clean-up operations are also underway in Lithuania, especially near the Lithuania-Kaliningrad border.

Our Warsaw correspondent reports Poland's shoreline is not threatened, because prevailing winds are carrying the oil spill east.

Reports are calling this the worst oil spill in the Baltic in ten years. And it is reported that about 100 kms of Kaliningrad's shoreline is heavily polluted.