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‘More than serious’ Russia threatens retaliatory measures after Lithuania bans transit of EU-sanctioned goods to Kaliningrad

Source: Meduza
The port of Kaliningrad
The port of Kaliningrad
Andreas Bastian / Caro / Scanpix / LETA

Moscow is threatening retaliatory measures in response to Lithuania’s ban on rail transit of EU-sanctioned goods to Russia’s far-western enclave of Kaliningrad. The restrictions, which began on Saturday, June 18, currently apply to coal, metals, cement, wood, construction materials, and advanced technology. Restrictions on the supply of petroleum products may be introduced in August. 

Kaliningrad Governor Anton Alikhanov said the restrictions cover 40–50 percent of all goods brought into the region. He condemned the ban “illegal,” saying he would seek clarification on the restrictions from the European Commission. At the same time, Alikhanov said that goods could instead be delivered by air or sea. 

On Monday, June 20, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said that the ban was imposed following “consultations with the European Commission and under its leadership.”

Russia’s Foreign Ministry summoned Lithuania’s chargé d’affaires to protest the ban later on Monday. In a statement, the foreign ministry slammed the restrictions as “provocative” and “openly hostile.” 

“If in the near future cargo transit between the Kaliningrad region and the rest of the territory of the Russian Federation through Lithuania is not restored in full, then Russia reserves the right to take actions to protect its national interests,” the ministry said. 

Russian Senator Grigory Karasin, who heads the Federation Council’s international affairs committee, also stated that the Lithuanian chargé d’affaires was warned that Moscow may take retaliatory measures. “We reserve the option to take rather drastic measures to prevent our region from being blockaded […] The conversation was, as I understand it, tough,” Karasin said without providing further details. 

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called Lithuania’s decision “unprecedented.” “The situation is more than serious and requires very deep analysis before formulating any measures and decisions,” he added. 

In turn, Russian Senator Andrey Klishas wrote on Telegram: “Lithuania’s attempt to establish an effective blockade of the Kaliningrad region is a violation of Russia’s sovereignty over this region and may be the basis for very tough and absolutely legal actions on Russia’s part.” 

“If the European Union does not immediately correct Vilnius’s impudent little stunt, it will itself disavow the legitimacy of all the documents on Lithuania’s membership in the EU for us and it will untie [our] hands to solve the Kaliningrad transit problem Lithuania created by any means we choose,” said Russian Senator Andrey Klimov, who heads the Federation Council’s state sovereignty commission. 

The Lithuanian government has taken one of the strongest stances in Europe in response to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Lithuania was one of the first countries to close its airspace to Russian aircraft and the first EU state to suspend all Russian gas imports. In May, Lithuanian lawmakers unanimously adopted a resolution declaring Russia “terrorist state.” 

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