Kaliningrad Governor: Russia Can Make 1/2 of Lithuania’s Economy Cease to Exist

Since June 18, Lithuania has blocked transit from the regions of Russia to the Kaliningrad region. Almost 50 per cent of the items that were transported to the region, including construction materials, were banned. The governor of the Kaliningrad region, Anton Alikhanov, in an interview with Vedomosti, told why he expects that the ban on any transit will be lifted.  

In an interview, the governor said that Kaliningrad was ready for a blockade. He pointed out that it is only logical for the exclave to consider various logistical risks, to calculate the scenario of the territory’s operation in a separate mode.

“If we hadn’t been preparing, then in 2016 no one would have made a decision on the need to build two new ferries for Kaliningrad. We understood even then that our neighbors could put pressure on this and try to take some unfriendly steps,” Alikhanov noted.

Nevertheless, he emphasized that the railwaymen have certain international regulations, that is when introducing such bans, five days should pass for the completion of transportation.

“But they tell you at 2 pm that nothing will be allowed to pass from midnight – nobody usually does it like that,” he noted.

Legal base for the ban

In addition, the governor pointed to the fact that when the first four packages of sanctions were adopted, there was nothing about transit from Russia to Russia. The fifth package of sanctions concerned, among other things, restrictions on carriers. When introducing the fifth package, Russia’s permanent representative to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, reminded about Kaliningrad, and they prescribed an exception. However, in the first half of June, the EU Commission, at the request of the Lithuanian side, sent explanations, where, among other things, there was a clause on whether goods that fell under sanctions in mutual trade between the EU and Russia could be allowed to transit to or from the Kaliningrad region.

“Before this clarification, Lithuania was letting our goods pass. And the fact that the Europeans are now saying that the European restrictions are being revealed in stages is a lie! This is an outright lie!” said Alikhanov.

As an example to back his position, he cited the fact that restrictions on cement trade were in effect immediately after the adoption of the sanctions package, but at the same time no one restricted the passage of Russian cement through Lithuania to Kaliningrad, that is, Lithuanians “at the level of their authorities, let’s say, the average level – customs officers, border guards, railway workers – allowed the transit”. He explained this by the fact that for Lithuania, transit is one of the serious sources of income, replenishment of the budget, and employment.

“And then the issue became politicized, it reached the level of Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda, Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte, and they apparently began to use this topic as a lever for some internal negotiations with the EU, with NATO – with the message that Lithuania needs to be helped, groups should be strengthened, etc,” the governor noted.

He also said that the EU Commission, after negotiations with the Russian Foreign Ministry, the EU Ambassador in Moscow, Markus Ederer, sent explanations to Lithuania on June 27 that transit is possible. But Lithuania “was not satisfied with them and has already begun to interpret them in its own way.” So now the work continues between the EU Commission and Lithuania, Alikhanov said. The official also noted that on July 1, information appeared that a transit sanctions rule would be introduced into the next package, which would lift the ban.

“In our opinion, this is the right position. Earlier interpretations of the transit ban were incorrect. In the sanctions packages, the word transfer is used – in the legal sense it is a “transfer”, i.e. it means the transfer of goods between EU and Russian legal entities. When we talk about Kaliningrad transit, we are not talking about trade between Russia and the EU, but exclusively about domestic operations,” he explained.

Effect of the ban on the Kaliningrad region

The governor of the region insisted that although Lithuania denies its steps as a “blockade of the region”, they are clearly of an unfriendly nature.

“Yes, the ban does not apply to food, but without the cement, for example, we cannot build schools or hospitals. That is, it is a question of the normal existence of more than a million people and the economy of our region. Therefore, of course, these are extremely unfriendly steps, and these issues should be resolved in the near future,” stressed he.

At the moment, according to the governor, logistics has already been rebuilt, but there is a problem with tariffs for cargo transportation by sea. Last week, subsidizing the ferry line was discussed in order to equalize the tariff for sea transportation with the tariffs for transportation by rail.

The governor also noted that there is no increase in unemployment due to sanctions yet. On the contrary, the Kaliningrad authorities are actively working on commissioning new plants in their industrial parks. Sanctions will not affect them, their logistics have already been rebuilt.

In addition, even if Lithuania blocks the transit of gas, it won’t create a problem, because Kaliningrad, according to the governor, has its own regasification station and underground storage, there is a huge gas carrier ship on the roadstead, which, if necessary, will ensure the delivery of the necessary amount of blue fuel. There is also an independent gas supply.

Moreover, the region has a surplus in food and fully provides itself with whole milk, meat, and potatoes. The provision of eggs for the period from 2014 to 2021 increased from 69 to 90 per cent, dairy products of deep processing (cheeses, cottage cheese products) increased from 55 to 88 per cent. Vegetables from the “borscht set” group (cabbage, carrots, beets) reached 80 per cent and the whole vegetable group – 68 per cent.

“We even sell a lot for export. We are firmly in the top 5 regions exporting agricultural products in the country. The Kaliningrad region makes a significant contribution to the development of Russian exports of agricultural products: our region accounts for a third of the total exports of agricultural products of the North-Western Federal District and 5 per cent of exports of agricultural products of Russia,” Alikhanov said.

Finally, the tourism situation in the region is excellent. According to the results of the first two months of this year, an increase in the flow was recorded (+50-60 per cent by January and February 2021). And even though, at the moment, there is a decrease in the flow relative to last year by about 10 per cent, it is worth noting that 2021 was a “super year”, an absolute record for the number of tourists in the entire history of the region.

“We understood that it would be extremely difficult to repeat that. Now, too, planes to Kaliningrad are full, the number of flights to the region is increasing. A certain decrease may be due to the fact that flights to us from southern airports are closed, because there were flights to us from Rostov, Belgorod, Bryansk,” Alikhanov explained.

Russia’s countermeasures

As for the ban on transit by Lithuania, Alikhanov allowed two ways out of the current situation. As the first one, he mentioned the work of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on changes in the sanctions package so that the restrictions are lifted. The second is the new vessels on the line connecting the Kaliningrad region with the main territory of Russia, as well as subsidizing the sea tariff so that products do not become more expensive.

Retaliatory measures were mentioned last. Alikhanov has already prepared them and handed them over to the government and the presidential administration, though specified they will be implemented only if the ban is not lifted.

“These are measures of various nature, let’s discuss them if the need for their adoption is 100 per cent. But I repeat: we have something to reply with economically, and it is very critical for Lithuania,” he warned.

The official assured that there are still many Russian cargoes “that were coming to us through Lithuania.”

“Therefore, the Baltic transport complex, in principle, can be destroyed if Russia applies anti-sanctions against cargo that goes to and from the Baltic States,” he said.

He continued by saying that Russia’s economic response to the Baltic States would be a much more effective measure and “extremely destructive”, comparable to neutron weapons.

“Russia can make it so that half of Lithuania’s economy will cease to exist. It just feels like Lithuania doesn’t understand that the Kaliningrad Region is part of Russia and that there is someone to stand up for us, we are not alone with the problem,” he said.

He backed up his words with the following example: two people are walking down the street: a “big grown-up guy”, a master of sports in boxing, tactical shooting, etc., who is holding the hand of his younger seven-year-old brother. And suddenly a man comes up to them and gives the kid a slap on the forehead. And if he does, then it’s obvious that his older brother will be able to stand up for him.

“Therefore, if you don’t want to deal with the older brother, don’t touch the kid. Although the kid has also been practicing martial arts since the age of three,” Alikhanov warned.

Ru-Main, 04.07.2022
Source: Vedomosti 

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