Russia threatens Lithuania over ‘more than serious’ Kaliningrad rail goods ban

Russia has warned Lithuania – a Nato member – that it will “take action” unless the movement of goods by rail to the Kaliningrad exclave is restored.

Moscow summoned Lithuania’s top diplomat to deliver a protest after the Baltic nation banned the transit of sanctioned goods through its territory.

“The situation is more than serious,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “This decision is really unprecedented. It’s a violation of everything.”

Russia’s foreign ministry called Lithuania’s move “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.

Kaliningrad, formerly the port of Koenigsberg, capital of East Prussia, was captured from Nazi Germany by the Red Army in April 1945 and ceded to the Soviet Union after the Second World War.

It has a population of about 430,000 and is Russia’s only ice-free Baltic port as well as the home of the Russian Baltic fleet.

It is sandwiched between Nato members Poland and Lithuania and isolated from the rest of Russia except by sea. Trains with goods for Kaliningrad travel via Belarus and Lithuania; there is no transit through Poland.

Lithuania said it was merely implementing EU sanctions, part of a swathe of measures intended to punish President Vladimir Putin for the invasion of Ukraine.

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

Lithuania’s state-owned railway informed clients on Saturday that sanctioned goods such as steel and iron would no longer be permitted to cross Lithuania.

From 10 July, similar sanctions will be implemented on concrete and alcohol goods, from 10 August on coal and from December no Russian oil will be allowed through EU territory.

Anton Alikhanov, the governor of the Russian exclave, has estimated that the ban would affect some 50 per cent of all goods flowing towards Kaliningrad by rail.

Reuters and Associated Press contributed to this report

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