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Lithuania expands trade restrictions on Kaliningrad despite Russian warning

Lithuania expands trade restrictions on Kaliningrad despite Russian warning

Direction signs are seen at the border railway station in Kipartay, Lithuania, June 21, 2022. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins/File Photo

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  • Kaliningrad proposes to respond to the Baltic states in the European Union
  • Putin and Lukashenko discuss measures against Lithuania

VILNIUS (Reuters) – Lithuania on Monday expanded restrictions on trade across its territory to include Russia’s Baltic region of Kaliningrad, as European Union sanctions against Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine took effect.

A Lithuanian customs spokesman said additional goods that were denied entry on Monday morning include concrete, wood, alcohol and industrial chemicals containing alcohol.

Russia warned Lithuania and the European Union on Friday that it could take “harsh measures” against them if the transit of some goods to and from Kaliningrad was not resumed “in the coming days”. Read more

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The governor of the Kaliningrad region on Monday proposed a blanket ban on the movement of land goods between Russia and the three Baltic EU members of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, a move that could shift Russian shipping from their ports to those of Kaliningrad. Read more

“This will provide activities for (our) shipping companies and will work on the Kaliningrad ports, which are badly affected by the restrictions of the European Union,” Governor Anton Alikhanov said via Telegram.

Phone call to Putin-Lukashenko

Later on Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally, discussed a possible response to Lithuania’s actions during a phone call, their Telegram accounts reported.

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In a short statement on Telegram, the Kremlin said the presidents discussed “some possible joint steps … in connection with the illegal restrictions imposed by Lithuania on the transit of goods into the Kaliningrad region.”

Lithuania does not have a border with mainland Russia but is a neighbor of Belarus.

Trade restrictions have been upgraded in the European Union as governments, markets and companies fear that Russia may choose to extend the shutdown of the single largest pipeline carrying Russian gas to Germany beyond a scheduled 10-day maintenance period. Read more

The row over the isolation of Kaliningrad is testing Europe’s resolve to impose sanctions amid fears of an escalation of confrontation with Russia after other restrictions prompted Moscow to default on its debt. Read more

EU officials, backed by Germany, sought in late June a quick compromise to resolve the crisis. But sources told Reuters that Lithuania, which once ruled from Moscow within the old Soviet Union, has serious reservations about offering what could be considered a concession to the Kremlin.

Kaliningrad borders NATO and European Union member states Lithuania and Poland and relies on railways and roads through Lithuania for most of its goods. The coastal region has been cut off from some cargo transfers from mainland Russia since June 17 under the European Union’s sanctions regime.

Goods that fall into humanitarian or essential categories, such as foodstuffs, are exempt from sanctions. Passenger movement is not prohibited and Kaliningrad can still be reached by air or sea.

Additional reporting by Andrios Setas in Vilnius; Editing by Anna Ringström and Mark Heinrich

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