Kaliningrad: Russia warns Lithuania of consequences over rail transit blockadeon June 21, 2022 at 12:48 pm

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Lithuania banned the transit of certain goods to Russia’s Kaliningrad region over EU sanctions.

A Russian customs officer works at a commercial port in the Baltic Sea town of Baltiysk in the Kaliningrad region, Russia, in October 2021Image source, Reuters

Russia has summoned the EU ambassador in response to Lithuania’s ban on some goods being transported by rail to the Russian territory of Kaliningrad.

Lithuania says it is bound by EU sanctions, imposed as part of a series of measures taken over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Kremlin has called the measures “unprecedented” and “illegal”.

Russia’s foreign ministry has threatened “to take actions to protect its national interests”.

Kaliningrad – which has no land border with Russia – was annexed from Germany in 1945 and remains of strategic importance to Russia.

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Last week, the Lithuanian authorities announced they would ban goods subject to EU sanctions from passing through their territory to Kaliningrad.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said: “It’s not Lithuania doing anything: it’s European sanctions that started working from 17 June… It was done with consultation from the European Commission and under European Commission guidelines.”

The EU sanctions list includes coal, metals, construction materials and advanced technology – and Russia’s Kaliningrad Region Governor, Anton Alikhanov, Alikhanov said the ban would cover around 50% of the items that Kaliningrad imports.

“We consider this to be a most serious violation… of the right to free transit into and out of Kaliningrad region,” he said.

Russia’s foreign ministry said Vilnius must reverse a move it described as “openly hostile”.

“If cargo transit between the Kaliningrad region and the rest of the Russian Federation via Lithuania is not fully restored in the near future, then Russia reserves the right to take actions to protect its national interests,” it said, without specifying what those actions may be.

Lithuania is a member of the Nato military alliance, protected by collective defence treaties.

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Analysis box by Steve Rosenberg, Russia editor

Russian officials are furious with Lithuania – and the EU – over the ban on the transit of some goods to Kaliningrad. They’re likening it to a blockade.

But when the foreign ministry in Moscow says “Russia reserves the right to take actions to protect its national interests”, what exactly does it mean? What actions and when?

The Kremlin says it’s trying to work that out right now.

On Monday, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, noted that “the situation is really very serious and requires a very deep analysis before preparing any measures or any decisions. This thorough analysis will be carried out over the next few days.”

Today, one of Vladimir Putin’s closest allies, Nikolai Patrushev, flew to the Kaliningrad region to discuss “national security in north-west Russia”. Mr Patrushev is secretary of Russia’s powerful Security Council. Officials claim the visit was planned long in advance. What a coincidence.

When it comes to “national security”, Kaliningrad is a key location. Russia’s Baltic fleet has its headquarters there. And Moscow has previously deployed nuclear-capable Iskander ballistic missiles to Kaliningrad region.

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