EU says Lithuania acted ‘in the right way’ in conflict with Russia
Lithuania did not act unilaterally and only applied European sanctions when it decided to ban the transit of certain goods to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, said the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell on Monday (June 20), thus supporting Vilnius in its new dispute with Moscow.
The new row is raising concerns about another hotbed of tension in the Baltics, a week after a bill challenging Lithuania’s independence was submitted to the Russian Duma.
For weeks, Russian state television has been talking, among other things, about the possibility of Moscow opening a ” corridor “ from Belarus through Poland — the Suwałki Pass — and thus circumvent the land route through Lithuania.
“In accordance with EU sanctions, there are import and export restrictions that apply on certain goods”Borrell said on Monday after a meeting of foreign ministers from the bloc in Luxembourg.
“The accusation against Lithuania that it would apply Lithuanian sanctions is false, it is pure propaganda”he continued.
“Lithuania does nothing but implement the guidelines of the European Commission […] if they transit through EU territory for certain goods, then it is prohibited”he added.
Mr Borrell said the EU would nevertheless “recheck” EU guidelines to ensure that these “align completely” with all sorts of measures.
The head of EU diplomacy also strongly denied that a “blockade” be imposed between Kaliningrad and Russia, adding that the transit of passengers and goods not affected by the sanctions was continuing.
Russia had threatened to retaliate to the restrictions “openly hostile” of Lithuania after the latter had interrupted Monday morning the rail transport of Russian goods targeted by European sanctions towards the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, a territory wedged between Lithuania and Poland.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has asked Vilnius to immediately reverse what it considers a measure “openly hostile”.
“Russia reserves the right to take measures to protect its national interests if the transit of goods from Kaliningrad to the rest of the country via Lithuania is not fully restored in the near future”the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The region, home to a major Russian naval base and launch pads for Russian Iskander missile systems, is landlocked between Poland and Lithuania and has no land connection with Russia.
With the restrictions imposed on the rail link, Kaliningrad must now step up transport by ship.
The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, stressed in a statement that it only blocks sanctioned shipments bound for Kaliningrad.
“It’s not Lithuania doing anything — it’s the European sanctions that came into force on June 17”Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told reporters in Luxembourg.
“This was done in consultation with the European Commission and in accordance with European Commission guidelines”he added.
Borrell also stressed that Lithuania’s decision should not be compared to the situation 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 affected by what is happening in Ukraine”he concluded.