Germany warned Russia against taking countermeasures that violate international law in connection with the restrictions imposed by Lithuania on the transit of certain goods to the Kaliningrad region. As stated on Wednesday, June 22, by German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit, Lithuania operates within the EU sanctions legislation and prohibits the transit of certain goods only. The restrictions do not apply to passengers and non-sanctioned goods, the government spokesman said. “Therefore, we unequivocally reject the countermeasures announced by Russia. We call on Russia not to take any measures that violate international law,” Hebeshtreit said.
Lithuania halted the transit of sanctioned goods to Kaliningrad
At the end of last week, Lithuanian Railways (LTG) notified the Kaliningrad Railway that from June 18 stop transit deliveries to the region, as well as the export from the region through the territory of Lithuania to Russia “a large list of goods” that are subject to EU sanctions. The Lithuanian carrier referred to the explanations of the European Commission in connection with the sanctions imposed against Russia. The restrictions affected, in particular, Russian steel and other ferrous metal products, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry stressed.
Governor of the Kaliningrad region Anton Alikhanov said that the restrictions apply to building materials, cement, metals and other products. According to preliminary estimates, the ban will affect from 20 to 40 percent of the items that were transported between the Kaliningrad region and other regions of Russia, he said.
Dispute between Russia and Lithuania on the legality of stopping transit
The Russian Foreign Ministry the next day after the announcement of the restrictions demanded that they be canceled, calling the measures of the Lithuanian side “provocative” and “violating international legal obligations.” Moscow pointed to a joint statement by Russia and the European Union on transit between the Kaliningrad region and the rest of the territory of the Russian Federation of 2002.
In response to the statement of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Vilnius emphasizedthat the country did not prohibit the transit of passengers and non-sanctioned cargo to and from the Kaliningrad region through Lithuania. “Lithuania has not introduced any unilateral, individual or additional restrictions on transit. Lithuania consistently enforces the EU sanctions, which have different transition periods and effective dates,” the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry said.
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell called the Kremlin’s accusations “pure propaganda“Lithuania has not accepted any unilateral national restrictions,” he said, stressing that EU sanctions apply to certain Russian goods.
Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolai Patrushev said on June 21 that response measures are being worked out in Russia, which “will be taken in the near future.” These steps of the Russian side, he said, “will have a serious negative impact on the population of Lithuania.”