VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) — Lithuania on Monday defended its choice to bar rail transit from Russia to a Russian Baltic Sea exclave of products hit by European Union sanctions, in a transfer that drew Moscow’s sturdy anger amid excessive tensions within the area.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis mentioned his nation was merely implementing sanctions imposed by the EU, of which it’s a member. He mentioned the measures applied Saturday had been taken after “consultation with the European Commission and under its guidelines.”
“Sanctioned goods (will) no longer be allowed to transit Lithuanian territory,” Landsbergis added.
Goods on the record embrace metal, however are set to be broadly expanded to cowl gadgets from coal to alcoholic drinks.
The Kaliningrad exclave, residence to some 430,000 folks, is surrounded by Lithuania and Poland, one other EU nation, to the south and remoted from the remainder of Russia. Trains with items for Kaliningrad journey by way of Belarus and Lithuania. There’s no transit by Poland. Russia can nonetheless provide the exclave by sea, with out falling foul of EU sanctions.
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Russia has demanded that Lithuania instantly lifts the ban, with the Foreign Ministry in Moscow saying that if transport hyperlinks aren’t restored in full “Russia reserves the right to take action in defense of its national interests.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov strongly denounced the “unlawful” ban.
“This decision, indeed unprecedented, is a violation of everything and then some. We understand that it is connected to the relevant decision of the European Union to extend the sanctions to transit (of goods). This we also consider unlawful,” Peskov informed reporters on Monday.
The overseas ministry summoned Lithuania’s chief diplomatic consultant in Moscow for a proper protest and alleged the Baltic nation was performing in breach of worldwide agreements. Lithuania has not had an envoy in Moscow since April, when it downgraded diplomatic ties in protest on the killing of civilians in Ukraine by Russian troops after the Feb. 24 invasion.
Lithuania later summoned the Russian envoy in Vilnius to inform him the ban was in step with EU sanctions, and that there was no blockade of Kaliningrad.
The EU’s high diplomat, Josep Borrell, mentioned Lithuania’s transfer shouldn’t be in comparison with the scenario in Ukraine. “The rest of the world will not be affected by what is happening in Kaliningrad, but the rest of the world is very much affected by what is happening in Ukraine,” he mentioned.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted: “Russia has no right to threaten Lithuania. Moscow has only itself to blame for the consequences of its unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine.”
On Monday, Lithuanian customs mentioned the sanctions, which took impact in mid-June, had been a part of the fourth EU sanctions bundle imposed on March 15.
Lina Laurinaityte Grigiene, a customs spokeswoman, mentioned affected gadgets embrace Russian metal “that cannot be transported over the territory of European countries.”
“The land transit between Kaliningrad and other parts of Russia is not stopped or blocked. All goods that are not under sanctions travel freely,” she said.
She added that starting July 10, similar sanctions will be implemented on concrete and alcohol goods, from Aug. 10 on coal and from December no Russian oil will be allowed into EU territory.
Anton Alikhanov, the governor of the Russian exclave, has estimated that the ban would affect some 50% of all goods flowing towards Kaliningrad by rail. He also said he would call on Russian authorities to take measures against Lithuania and would seek to have more goods sent by ship.
Kaliningrad, which is home to the Russian Baltic Fleet, is Russia’s only ice-free Baltic port. Moscow has also deployed there nuclear-capable Iskander missiles.
As part of its economic sanctions, the EU has imposed a number of import and export restrictions on Russia. The bloc said it has been careful not to harm the Russian population with its packages of measures and therefore excluded products related to health, pharma, food and agriculture. The list of sanctioned products include up to 90% of oil imports, coal, steel, iron, wood, as well as caviar and vodka. Bans are implemented by the EU’s customs authorities.
Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Samuel Petrequin in Brussels contributed to this report.
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