To defuse tensions, EU clarifies application of sanctions in Kaliningrad
In a bid to defuse growing tensions between Lithuania and Russia, the European Commission on Wednesday (July 13) updated its guidelines on the movement of sanctioned goods between Russia and the Kaliningrad enclave.
According to the guidelines communicated, Russia will be allowed to transit by rail via EU Member State Lithuania goods intended for civil uses included in the sanctions list and in quantities comparable to deliveries prior to invasion.
The national authorities will be required to verify that the volumes transported remain within the average of the last three years and that there are no unusual flows or exchanges, in particular with regard to dual-use goods (goods likely to to have both civilian and military use).
The European Commission has stated that these checks are the responsibility of the Lithuanian authorities and should be “targeted, proportionate and effective”.
However, she clarified that goods subject to existing community sanctions, such as steel and cement, will not be allowed to transit by road.
At the same time, sanctioned military and dual-use goods and related technology are completely prohibited, regardless of the mode of transport.
“Member States have a legal obligation to prevent all possibilities of circumventing EU restrictive measures”can we read in the guidelines of the European Commission.
“To this end, it is necessary that Member States continue to monitor bilateral trade flows between[la Russie et ses exclaves]»she added.
In some special cases, such as necessary repairs to waterway locks, the amount may be exceeded, sources in Brussels say. But Russia will have to justify every exception.
The move comes after weeks of tensions with Russia and technical discussions within the EU over how to apply EU sanctions to Russian products bound for Kaliningrad.
Vilnius had thoroughly checked Russian shipments, triggering a strong reaction from Moscow, which accused the EU of imposing a “blockade”.
In recent weeks, the EU has stressed that the restrictions would be in line with the technical application of its sanctions regime, denying any “blockade” imposed on the enclave, goods for civilian use having been transported and no rail convoy having been interrupted.
Despite the clarification provided by the EU, European Commission spokesman Eric Mamer insisted there had been no direct talks between the EU and Russia on unblocking transit to Kaliningrad, denying Russian media claims that suggested otherwise.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Kremlin said it expected “progress” to resolve the dispute over the impact of EU sanctions on the enclave.
In June, Lithuania blocked Russia from transiting EU-sanctioned goods through its territory, sparking outrage from Moscow, which then promised a response.
Despite Russian warnings of retaliation, Vilnius on Monday expanded the list of goods affected by the ban to include concrete, wood and alcohol.
“We expect progress, but we cannot say that the problem has been solved”Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday in response to reports that an agreement between the EU and Russia may be close to being reached to allow shipments of some goods to resume.
The governor of the Kaliningrad region said that up to half of the goods transiting between mainland Russia and the exclave would be affected by the ban, while the Lithuanian railway company estimates that around 15% of the goods would be affected ( in volume).
Russia will study EU clarifications on transit to Kaliningrad, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told TV channel Rossiya 24.
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