Moscow Slams EU Nation's Move Against Russian Exclave

Lithuania is banning transit of some sanctioned goods to Kaliningrad
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 20, 2022 4:07 PM CDT
Lithuania Defends Ban on Goods to Russian Exclave
Prime Minister of the Republic of Lithuania Ingrida Simonyte speaks at the Copenhagen Democracy Summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, Friday June 10, 2022.   (Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix via AP)

Lithuania on Monday defended its decision to bar rail transit of goods hit by European Union sanctions from Russia to a Russian Baltic Sea exclave, in a move that drew Moscow's strong anger amid high tensions in the region. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said his country was simply implementing sanctions imposed by the EU, of which it is a member. He said the measures implemented Saturday were taken after "consultation with the European Commission and under its guidelines," the AP reports. "Sanctioned goods (will) no longer be allowed to transit Lithuanian territory," Landsbergis added. Anton Alikhanov, the governor of the Russian exclave, has estimated that the ban would affect some 50% of all goods flowing towards Kaliningrad by rail.

Goods on the list include steel, but are set to be broadly expanded to cover items from coal to alcoholic drinks. The Kaliningrad exclave, home to some 430,000 people, is surrounded by Lithuania and Poland, another EU country, to the south and isolated from the rest of Russia. Trains with goods for Kaliningrad travel via Belarus and Lithuania. There's no transit through Poland. Russia can still supply the exclave by sea without falling foul of EU sanctions. Russia has demanded that Lithuania immediately lifts the ban, with the Foreign Ministry in Moscow saying that if transport links are not restored in full, "Russia reserves the right to take action in defense of its national interests."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov strongly denounced the "unlawful" ban. "This decision, indeed unprecedented, is a violation of everything and then some. We understand that it is connected to the relevant decision of the European Union to extend the sanctions to transit (of goods). This we also consider unlawful," Peskov told reporters on Monday. The EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, said Lithuania did not take any unilateral national restrictions and denied that land transit between Kaliningrad and other parts of Russia had been stopped, or banned. "There is no blockade,” Borrell said. He added that the transit of passengers and goods that are not sanctioned is continuing.

(More Lithuania stories.)

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