Moscow rejects “openly hostile” moves to limit the flow of EU-sanctioned goods to the Russian exclave, as Lithuania is defending the measures.
Russia’s foreign ministry has demanded the immediate lifting of Lithuania’s “openly hostile” restrictions on the rail transit of EU-sanctioned goods to Moscow’s exclave in Kaliningrad.
Caught between members of the European Union and NATO, Poland and Lithuania, Kaliningrad receives supplies from Russia via rail and gas pipelines through Lithuania.
The Baltic nation of Lithuania announced last week that this is the case prohibition of rail transit of goods which are subject to EU sanctions from mainland Russia to Kaliningrad.
The list includes coal, metals, building materials and modern technologies.
“If in the near future the transit of goods between the Kaliningrad region and the rest of the Russian Federation through Lithuania is not fully restored, then Russia reserves the right to take action to protect its national interests,” said the Russian Foreign Ministry. in a statement on Monday.
The ministry said it had summoned Lithuania’s High Commissioner for Affairs to Moscow to protest “provocative” and “openly hostile” measures.
Earlier Monday, the Kremlin said Lithuania’s decision was “unprecedented” and “in violation of everything that exists”.
“The situation is more than serious and requires a very thorough analysis before any measures and decisions are formulated,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis defended the move, saying his country was simply applying sanctions imposed by the EU of which it is a member.
He said the measures were taken after “consulting the European Commission and following its guidelines”.
“Sanctioned goods (will no longer) have the right to transit through Lithuanian territory,” Landsbergis added.
According to the governor of Kaliningrad Anton Alikhanov, the ban will affect about 50 percent of all imports in the exclave.
The ban was confirmed on Friday by the Lithuanian State Railways’ freight unit in a letter to customers following a “clarification” by the European Commission on the sanctions enforcement mechanism.
Urging citizens not to resort to panic shopping, Alikhanov said two ships were already carrying goods between Kaliningrad and St. Petersburg, and seven more would be in operation by the end of the year.
“Our ferries will handle all the cargo,” he said on Saturday.
Home to the headquarters of the Russian Baltic Fleet, the exclave was captured by Nazi Germany from the Red Army in April 1945 and ceded to the Soviet Union after World War II.