Lithuania enforces Kaliningrad sanctions, drawing Russian ire

Lithuania enforces Kaliningrad sanctions, drawing Russian ire

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Moscow warned Tuesday that Lithuania would face “serious” consequences for barring the transit of EU-sanctioned goods through its territory to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.

The Kremlin has described the decision as “unprecedented” and “hostile,” summoning the EU’s top diplomat in Moscow to object.

The region of Kaliningrad, hundreds of miles west of the rest of Russia, has become the latest flash point between Moscow and Europe as the fallout from the Kremlin’s war on Ukraine widens.

Kaliningrad’s city and port sit on the southern coast of the Baltic Sea between Lithuania and Poland, which are both part of the European Union and NATO. The region, home to the headquarters of the Russian Baltic Sea Fleet, receives much of its supplies via Lithuania and Belarus and has maritime connections to Russia.

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Lithuania’s state rail operator, LTG, announced Friday that it would no longer allow Russian goods that are under EU sanctions, including coal, metals and construction materials, to transit through the country to Kaliningrad — which the region’s governor said would affect nearly half its imports .

Officials in Moscow promised retaliation.

“Russia will definitely react to such hostile actions,” Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Russian Security Council, said Tuesday as he visited Kaliningrad, according to Russian news agencies.

He pledged “appropriate measures” in the near future but did not provide details. “Their consequences will have a serious negative impact on the population of Lithuania,” Patrushev said.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, described Lithuania’s decision as “inadmissible,” according to Russian news agency Tass. “The consequences will follow,” she said.

Lithuania, one of the Baltic states that have been among Ukraine’s staunchest supporters, has said it is implementing European Union sanctions — part of a campaign by Western governments to pressure Russian President Vladimir Putin over his invasion of Ukraine.

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The Lithuanian rail operator told The Washington Post that the movement of passengers and cargo not subject to EU sanctions would continue.

The EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, rejected Russian depictions of the Lithuanian move as a blockade.

Land transit between Kaliningrad and other parts of Russia “has not been stopped or banned,” he said at a news conference Monday. “Lithuania has not taken any unilateral national restrictions and only applies the European Union sanctions.”

Goods such as fuel and cement could still be shipped in from Russia by sea, said the governor of Kaliningrad, Anton Alikhanov. The exclave operates as a special economic zone with low taxes, although Western sanctions have hurt its economy.

On Monday, Alikhanov said that while stores and gas stations were stocked, people rushed to building-supply stores because construction materials could no longer arrive by rail.

Amar Nadhir, Amy Cheng and Annabelle Chapman contributed to this report.

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