WASHINGTON (AP) - Lithuania's energy minister is pleading with U.S. officials to boost natural gas exports to counter Russian influence in his country and across Europe.

WASHINGTON (AP) Lithuania's energy minister is pleading with U.S. officials to boost natural gas exports to counter Russian influence in his country and across Europe.

Energy minister Jaroslav Neverovic says Lithuania is completely dependent on Russia for natural gas and pays 30 percent more than other European countries. Neverovic told senators Tuesday that the situation amounts to abuse.

Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, the new chairwoman of the Senate Energy Committee, said U.S. exports of liquefied natural gas, or LNG, would be a "powerful geopolitical tool" to pressure Russian President Vladimir Putin to lower gas prices across Europe.

Landrieu is among nine U.S. officials barred from entering Russia in retaliation for economic sanctions imposed by the Obama administration in response to Russia's annexation of Crimea.