Russian authorities are discussing a response to Lithuania in connection with the ban on the transit of a number of goods through its territory under the pretext of implementing EU sanctions, as mentioned by the press secretary of the President of Russia Dmitry Peskov. He called the decision of the Lithuanian authorities illegal and unprecedented, and warned that a response would follow. The Secretary of the Security Council of Russia, Nikolai Patrushev, also warned that residents of Lithuania will seriously feel the consequences of these measures.
Earlier, Lithuanian Railways has notified the Kaliningrad Railway of the termination of the transit of a number of goods subject to EU sanctions from June 18. Later, the head of the European Diplomacy, Josep Borrel, said that the EU “does not impose a blockade” against Kaliningrad, and pointed out the need to revise the directives on the implementation of restrictions. As reminded, the EU closed access for Russian overland cargo transportation in April of this year, but then the ban did not affect the transit of goods to Kaliningrad.
The governor of the Kaliningrad region, Anton Alikhanov, stressed that the ferry complex of the Kaliningrad region will cope with the new cargo. The transit of petroleum products continues, it is not limited until August 10.
Alikhanov called Lithuania’s ban on transit illegal. He cited several paragraphs from the joint statement on EU enlargement, in which there are references to international agreements, documents to which both the European Community and Russia have joined. He noted that as a response to Lithuania’s restriction of transit, the issue of denouncing Russia’s agreements with the EU may arise.
MEP Petras Austrevicius said that Russia is defeating Lithuania on the issue of transit to the Kaliningrad region. He wrote about this in his social networks on June 24.
“It’s very hot in Brussels right now about transit to Kaliningrad, and it looks like Russia is winning so far,” the MP noted.
According to him, the EU continues to discuss the problem of transit to the Kaliningrad region. One of the countries demanded to reconsider the principles of applying sanctions against Russia, and so far all parties have not come to a consensus, as was reported on June 25.
The Lithuanian MP said that as a result, the EU Commission has prepared a preliminary document allowing Russia to import sub-sanctioned goods through the territory of the EU, without mentioning the countries that it will concern.
Lithuanian president’s response
Lithuania will not make concessions in resolving the issue of transit of sanctioned goods to the Kaliningrad region, as it was stated on his Facebook page by the president of the Republic Gitanas Nauseda.
He announced his intention to apply EU sanctions against Russia, including maintaining control over goods carried through the territory of the republic. According to him, there can be no “corridors”, just as there can be no concessions to Russia. However, he expressed concern about the consequences of such actions, considering that restrictions can harm the interests of Lithuania and international agreements.
Situation in Kaliningrad
After the introduction of restrictions on the transit of goods by rail, the Kaliningrad region will need from three to five new vessels to deliver goods to provide the region with the necessary from the ports of the Leningrad region. Several vessels are being already prepared to be put on the line, according to Anton Alikhanov on Sunday, June 26.
“According to various estimates, from three to five vessels may also be needed. There are ships in the Baltic. We are working with the Ministry of Transport and with carriers. The fifth vessel is leaving, several more vessels are preparing to be put on the line – to serve ports, to connect the ports of the Leningrad region with Kaliningrad. And this volume will be enough,” Alikhanov said live on the Rossiya-24 TV channel.
It is specified that the vessel “Kholmogory”, which additionally entered the sea transportation line to Kaliningrad, will perform one flight per week, which follows from the data published on the website of the shipowner company JSC “Northern Shipping Company”.
As the Head of the Fleet Operation Department of the Northern Shipping Company, Nikolay Sukhanov, clarified to TASS, the vessel will be loaded in the port of Bronka, St. Petersburg.
“According to the preliminary schedule, the exits from St. Petersburg are scheduled for July 4, July 12, 20, and 27,” he said, adding that the schedule was drawn up by the end of July.
The vessel will deliver metal structures and general cargo for the Kaliningrad Region on the first flight.
Besides, according to the governor of the Kaliningrad region, there is an excess amount of capacity in the Baltic Sea for the transportation of goods by sea to Kaliningrad, but subsidies will be required for transportation.
“There is an excess of sea transportation capacity in the Baltic today, so there is something to supply Kaliningrad and export goods from the region. Yes, there is a need to subsidize the sea tariff, but this is a technical issue. Our country can afford both this and the development programs of the region. We are a very strong country,” the governor wrote in his Telegram channel.
There are three stages of Russia’s response to transit restrictions through Kaliningrad – as the situation escalates, these will be economic, political, and military measures, says Alexander Nosovich, an expert at the Valdai analytical center.
Most likely, the main answer will be a symmetrical restriction of transit to Lithuania. Transportation between the Baltic States and the EU, including Poland, with which Lithuania has a border, also goes by rail through the Russian exclave. At the checkpoint “Chernyakhovsk” there is a point for changing the track from the European one (the Kaliningrad region has it in common with the Baltic countries – 1520 mm), says Nosovich. If Russia bans transit through Kaliningrad, Lithuania will suffer economic losses.
A proportional variant may be chosen, adequate to half of the nomenclature of transit prohibited by Lithuania. In this case, first of all, the transit of fertilizers and petroleum products from the main territory of the EU may be suspended. Despite the fact that Lithuania has formally abandoned Russian oil products, its Mazeikiai refinery (the country’s largest taxpayer) operates on raw materials delivered from Poland via the Kaliningrad region.