Russia wants transit restrictions in Kaliningrad to stop

posted by vicky684 about 14 days ago
Russia wants transit restrictions in Kaliningrad to stop
Russia has asked Lithuania to quickly lift a ban on the rail transit of some goods to and from its exclave of Kaliningrad. However, Vilnius says that the ban is in line with EU sanctions and must stay in place.

"Traffic from Lithuania to the Kaliningrad region has not been stopped or blocked. Lithuania has not put any restrictions on this transit on its own, spokespeople for President Gitanas Nauseda told local media on June 21. They also said that Kaliningrad is subject to the same EU sanctions as the rest of the Russian Federation.

Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, said on June 21 that Lithuania's decision to stop the transit of sanctioned goods between Kaliningrad and Russia is "unprecedented" and "violates everything there is."

A spokesman for the Kremlin told the Russian radio station Kommersant FM that such actions are illegal and can be seen as "part of the blockade."

Russia's foreign ministry said that Lithuania's "openly hostile" restrictions on transit violated a 2002 agreement between Russia and the EU that supported transit between Kaliningrad and the rest of Russia. On its website, the Russian ministry said that it had called Lithuania's charge d'affaires in Moscow, Virginija Umbrasiene.

The Lithuanian foreign ministry gave Sergey Ryabokon, Moscow's charge d'affaires ad interim in Vilnius, a diplomatic note on June 20 that explained how EU measures affect transit between Kaliningrad and the rest of Russia.

"At the meeting, the Russians' claim that Lithuania had banned Kaliningrad transit was refuted...

"Passengers and goods that are not affected by EU sanctions are still going to and from Kaliningrad through Lithuania," the ministry said in a statement.

Also on June 20, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said that the ban on the transit of steel and ferrous metal products between Kaliningrad and the rest of Russia was put in place to follow the EU's sanctions against Russia for invading Ukraine.

Anton Alikhanov, the governor of Kaliningrad Region, said on June 17 that Lietuvos Gelezinkeliai's (Lithuanian Railways) freight transportation subsidiary, LTG Cargo, had told the Russian exclave's railway operators that Western sanctions had stopped the rail transit of many goods. The governor says that the ban will affect between 40 and 50 percent of the products that are brought into and out of other parts of Russia through Lithuania. These include building materials, cement, and metal products.

The Lithuanian foreign ministry says that the EU's restrictions on bringing Russian steel and other ferrous metal products into or passing through the bloc's territory went into effect on June 17. These restrictions are part of the EU's 4th sanctions package, which was passed on March 15, 2022.

On June 21, the Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis stressed that the ban on the transit of steel and ferrous metal products through Lithuania to the Russian region of Kaliningrad is not a Lithuanian decision, but is instead part of the EU sanctions against Russia.

"First of all, this is not a decision made by Lithuania. These are European sanctions that went into effect on June 17. Railways are now applying the sanctions and telling their customers that as of June 17, sanctioned goods—steel and other goods made from iron ore—will no longer be taken via Lithuania. This is being done in consultation with and according to the guidelines of the European Commission," Landsbergis said on June 20 before the meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg.

Adopted on March 15, the EU sanctions package includes restrictions on Russian steel and other ferrous metal products with contracts signed before June 17. As of last Saturday, they could no longer be moved across EU territory, a spokeswoman for the department said.

Lithuania's Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas said on June 21 that Russia's talk of blocking the Lithuanian port was "pulled out of thin air."

"All hints that Russia might take 'other measures' and block the Lithuanian port in a way that does not involve contact are made up," Anusauskas says in his Facebook post. "Russia has not taken any steps, other than sending its own transit to its own ports," he said.

Due to EU sanctions, the minister said that steel and ferrous metal products can no longer be shipped through Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Poland, and other EU countries. However, people and goods that are not subject to sanctions can still travel through these countries.

Arnoldas Pranckevicius, Vilnius's ambassador to the EU, said on June 21 that Lithuania has to "rebut Russia's disinformation on a blockade" of its Kaliningrad exclave and not give in to attempts to cause panic.

"It is not important to explain ourselves to Russia. What is important is to disprove Russia's false story that Lithuania is blocking Kaliningrad," he told the public broadcaster LRT.

The ambassador pointed out that Josep Borrell, the head of foreign policy for the EU, had said on June 20 that land transit between Kaliningrad and the rest of Russia had not been stopped and that both people and non-sanctioned goods could still travel between the two places.

"Lithuania has not put any restrictions in place on its own; it only follows the sanctions of the European Union," Borrell said.
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