Russia threatens retaliation as Lithuania bans transit of goods to Kaliningrad | Russia
Russia has sparked concern in Brussels after it threatened to retaliate against Lithuania’s ban on the transit of certain goods through its territory to Russia’s Baltic Sea enclave of Kaliningrad.
The Vilnius government’s decision was called “unprecedented” in Moscow, where the Russian Foreign Ministry said it reserved the right to respond to protect its national interest.
The comments set off alarm bells in Brussels, where EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Lithuania was simply applying the bloc’s sanctions regime. He added, however, that he was concerned about the risk of reprisals and that he would check that all the rules were followed, while accusing the Kremlin of peddling propaganda.
“I’m still worried about Russian retaliation,” he said. “There is no blockade. Land transit between Kaliningrad and other parts of Russia has not been banned. Secondly, unsanctioned transit of people and goods continues. Thirdly, Lithuania does not took no unilateral national restrictions.
“We are in a precautionary state of mind. We will double-check the legal aspects to verify that we are completely aligned with any type of rule.
“But Lithuania is not guilty. It does not apply national sanctions. He does not implement their will. Whatever they do is after prior consultation with the commission, which has provided guidelines. And the implementation of the guidelines.
There was panic buying in Kaliningrad over the weekend after authorities in the region claimed Lithuania was preparing to shut down rail and gas links with Russia.
Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov further escalated tensions on Monday by threatening to respond to what he called an “illegal move”. He said: “This decision is truly unprecedented. It’s a violation of everything. We consider this to be illegal. The situation is more than serious… We need a serious and in-depth analysis to develop our response.
Wedged between Lithuania to the north and east and Poland to the south, Kaliningrad is about 1,300 km from Moscow and depends on much of its supplies by rail.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said Vilnius must reverse the “openly hostile” decision. “If freight transit between the Kaliningrad region and the rest of the Russian Federation via Lithuania is not fully restored in the near future, Russia reserves the right to take measures to protect its national interests,” did he declare.
The Foreign Ministry summoned Lithuania’s chief diplomatic representative to Moscow for an official protest and alleged the Baltic nation was acting in violation of international agreements.
However, after a meeting in Brussels, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said Moscow was spreading false information and the national rail service was acting legally by simply implementing the EU sanctions regime banning the supply of steel or products made from iron ore to Russia. .
Landsbergis said less than half of the goods usually supplied transiting through Lithuania would be covered by the sanctions regime over time, with the steel ban coming into force on June 17.
“I think there was false information, not for the first time, announced by the Russian authorities, but I am happy that we have a chance to explain this,” he said. “At this stage, approximately just under half of the goods transiting through Lithuania are on the sanctions list, but that does not mean that they are all subject to sanctions at the moment.
“Because there are different downturns, and some of them, for example oil, will not be sanctioned until the end of the year, starting in December, even though the authorities have announced that ‘they were already sanctioned, which is actually not true.
Goods banned under EU sanctions introduced following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine include coal, metals, building materials and advanced technology.
Much of the panic in the enclave appears to have been sparked by regional governor Anton Alikhanov’s pleas for calm on Saturday.
He added that two ships were already transporting goods between Kaliningrad and St. Petersburg, and that seven more would be in service by the end of the year. “Our ferries will handle all the cargo,” he said on Saturday.
Video footage that could not be independently verified later emerged showing people loading shopping carts into DIY stores in response to the news.
Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dmytro Kuleba, tweeted: “Russia has no right to threaten Lithuania. Moscow has only to deal with the consequences of its unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine. We welcome Lithuania’s position of principle and strongly support our Lithuanian friends.
Kaliningrad, where the Russian Baltic Sea Fleet has its headquarters, has a population of around 500,000. It was captured from Nazi Germany by the Red Army in April 1945 and ceded to the Soviet Union at the end of the war.