Lithuania won’t argue with Brussels over Kalingrad transit
Jul 13, 2022, 5:28 PM | Updated: Jul 14, 2022, 5:49 am
VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) — Lithuania will not try to reverse a decision by the European Union’s executive arm to allow certain sanctioned goods pass through its territory on the way to Russia’s Baltic Sea enclave of Kaliningrad, Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said Thursday.
The European Commission said Wednesday that Russia can continue transporting certain cargo to Kalingrad by rail — but not by road — as long as the goods don’t serve a military purpose. EU members Lithuania and Poland both border Kaliningrad, and Russia does not have a direct land route to the region.
Lithuania earlier this year barred trains carrying goods from Russia that were subject to EU sanctions, a move that angered Moscow amid tensions over the war in Ukraine.
Simonyte said the EU’s focus now was on maintaining support for Ukraine in the war and securing swift agreement on further sanctions against Moscow.
“It would not be rational to spend our time and energy on discussions (over) whether a kiloton of steel can be transported from one part of Russia to the Kaliningrad region by rail,” Simonyte told reporters. “Any further disputes on this matter would be a real victory for the Kremlin.”
Goods on the list include steel, but are expected to be broadly expanded to cover items from coal to alcoholic drinks.
The EU Commission said member states should “check whether transit volumes remain within the historical averages of the last three years” to make sure that “there are no unusual flows or trade patterns that could give rise to circumvention.”
Other leaders of Lithuania’s ruling Conservative party said the decision to allow rail transit of sanctioned goods was expected.
“Of course, this decision is different from what it would have been if it had been made by Lithuania on its own,” Laurynas Kasciunas, the chairman of the Lithuanian Parliament’s Committee on National Security and Defense, said. “However, this clarification is collective and consensual, just as the entire sanctions policy of the European Union.”
The Kaliningrad exclave, home to some 430,000 people, is surrounded by Lithuania and Poland, and isolated from the rest of Russia. Trains with goods for Kaliningrad travel via Belarus and Lithuania.
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