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Russia threatens Lithuania with measures to defend its interests

After seeing rail traffic to Kaliningrad blocked for some of its goods

The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry had this Monday to come out against the ultimatum launched by Moscow for blocking the rail transit of goods included in the list of sanctions to the enclave of Kaliningrad, a territory that belonged to Germany (the former Königsberg), but which the Soviet Union was annexed after the end of World War II. According to the head of the Lithuanian Diplomacy, Gabrielius Landsbergis, the ban on the transit of ferrous metals (including steel) between Russia and Kaliningrad “is not a decision of Lithuania, but a consequence of the sanctions of the European Union against Moscow”.

“First of all, this is not a Lithuanian initiative, but these are European sanctions that have come into force since June 17 and are currently being applied by our railways,” Landsbergis assured in Luxembourg during the meeting of EU foreign ministers. . In his words, “we are doing it in coordination with the European Commission.”

The Lithuanian Customs Department, for its part, assured that these restrictions “have been known since mid-March as part of the fourth package of European sanctions.” This new round of sanctions, adopted on March 15, “imposed limitations on Russian steel and other articles made from ferrous metals under contracts concluded before June 17, so that as of June 18 they cannot be transported by the territory of the Community’.

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The spokeswoman for the Customs Department, Lina Laurinaitytė-Grigiene, maintains that “land transit between the Kaliningrad region and other regions of Russia has not been stopped or blocked. The transit of passengers and goods not subject to EU sanctions continues. Lithuania has not imposed any unilateral, individual or additional restrictions on this transit. We have received no further instructions and will not take any further action.” Laurinaitytė-Grigiene announced that the same ban will come into force on July 10 for cement, alcohol and other products, on August 10 for coal and other solid minerals and on December 5 for Russian oil.

The Russian Foreign Ministry announced this Monday morning in a statement that the Lithuanian charge d’affaires, Virginia Umbrasiene, had been summoned to deliver the protest against the blockade of Russian goods “without prior notice.” The Russian Foreign Ministry demands in the note “the immediate lifting of these restrictions, measures that we consider a provocation on the Lithuanian side, since they violate Lithuania’s international legal obligations, mainly the Joint Declaration of the Russian Federation and the European Union on transit between the Kaliningrad region and the rest of the territory of the Russian Federation, 2002′. Russian Foreign Affairs also describes Lithuania’s attitude as “openly hostile” and warns that “if in the near future cargo transit between the Kaliningrad region and the rest of the territory of the Russian Federation through Lithuania is not fully restored, Russia reserves the right to take measures to protect its national interests.”

Andrei Klimov, head of the Federation Council (Upper House) commission for the Protection of National Sovereignty, warns that if Vilnius does not back down, “Russia will have a free hand to solve the problem by any available means (. ..) as Lithuania will render void all agreements and treaties on its EU membership.” Klimov warned that “blocking an entity belonging to Russia is an act of direct aggression against Moscow that would force us to resort to legitimate defense.” Although at a purely informal level, this Monday in Moscow there was talk of the possibility of forcibly opening the so-called Suwalki corridor, on the border between Poland and Lithuania, which would link Belarus with Kaliningrad at the expense of Polish and Lithuanian territory. This measure, if carried out, would provoke a direct conflict between Russia and NATO.

The deputy chairman of the Russian Senate, Konstantin Kosachiov, stated on his Telegram channel that the Lithuanian authorities are violating international law. “As a member state of the EU, Lithuania, within the framework of sanctions, violates a number of legally binding international commitments that affect not only Lithuania’s obligations, but also those of the European Union as a whole.”

It refers to article 12 of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the Russian Federation and the European Union dated June 24, 1994, which, according to Kosachiov, “has not yet been denounced”. “This document establishes that each party ensures the free transit through its territory of goods originating in the customs territory or destined for the customs territory of the other party,” he added.

The Russian senator has accused Brussels of also violating “the principles of the World Trade Organization.” In his view, “at this rate, the West may even end up violating the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, where freedom of transit also exists (…) in the same way that airspace ». Kaliningrad Governor Anton Alikhanov warned Moscow on June 17 of “a significant reduction in rail freight traffic from other regions of Russia through Lithuania.”

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