The Russian government has promised to respond against Lithuania for halting the transit of Russian goods to the exclave of Kaliningrad.
This week, Russia summoned Lithuania’s chargé d’affaires in Moscow and threatened “measures to preserve [Russia’s] national interests” unless the limitations were lifted immediately, according to a statement from the foreign ministry.
According to Russian news agency Interfax, former senior diplomat and current chair of Russia’s parliament’s foreign affairs committee, Grigory Karasin, called the move “harsh” and warned that any retaliation may be “quite decisive.”
In retaliation for President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Lithuania, which controls the only overland train route connecting Kaliningrad with mainland Russia, began blocking exports of products covered by EU sanctions over the weekend.
A total of one-fourth of Russia’s total rail supplies to Kaliningrad were restricted, according to the ministry, including iron and metal, high-end goods, and other previously sanctioned items.
On Monday, Josep Borrell, the head diplomat for the EU, issued a full-throated defense of Lithuania’s actions, saying that despite the fact that he was “always apprehensive about Russian reprisal,” Lithuania was “not accountable” for what had happened.
In a press conference, he said, “Lithuania has not implemented any unilateral national limits and only uses EU sanctions.” According to Lithuanian officials, “Lithuania is only enforcing the fee’s terms.”
There is no direct overland route to Moscow from Kaliningrad, which is sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland after the Baltic states proclaimed independence from the USSR in 1991.
Nearly 80 Russian warships and submarines are based in the Baltic Fleet Headquarters. The Iskander ballistic missiles, which are capable of carrying nuclear warheads and have been stationed in the vicinity, have also been deployed by Moscow.
It may not be possible for the area to remain “non-nuclear” if Finland and Sweden join NATO, according to Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of Russia’s safety council, in April.
As a result of the EU sanctions, Kaliningrad has been further isolated, and Russian planes are now forced to fly across the Baltic Sea to avoid violating the bloc’s airspace ban.
Russia accused Lithuania of acting unilaterally, but Lithuania denied this and maintained that the transfer was in accordance with the EU’s rules, which include distinct winding down periods after which the products in question can no longer be delivered to Russia.
I don’t think it’s Lithuania that’s to blame.” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis blamed the EU sanctions for the country’s plight. As a result of the European Fee consultations and in accordance with the European Fee guidelines, it has been implemented.
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During an interview with EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg, Landsbergis played down the possibility of a Russian retaliation.
Overland rail service in Lithuania will remain open for passengers and non-sanctioned goods, according to the country’s statement.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russia would examine the situation before making a decision on whether or not to respond, Interfax reported.
The governor of Kaliningrad, Anton Alikhanov, claimed that the province may send the sanctioned commodities over the Baltic, but he said that the added cost would make the transit economically unviable, according to Russian newswire Ria Novosti.
He went on to say that in response, Russia may take “quite obvious” steps that will be “extraordinarily painful” for Lithuania.
In response to Lithuania’s rail “blockade,” Russia has issued a warning of reprisal.