EU Lifts Restrictions On Sanctions For Russian Goods Being Transported Through Lithuania
EUROPE - The European Commission has released new guidelines that state sanctions against Russia do not apply to rail transit through Lithuania to Kaliningrad, Russia and that rail transit can only be used for essential goods according to a document published on Wednesday.
The statement said that "The transit of sanctioned goods by road with Russian operators is not allowed under the EU measures. No such similar prohibition exists for rail transport".
"Member States shall check whether transit volumes remain within the historical averages of the last 3 years, in particular reflecting the real demand for essential goods at the destination".
The new guidelines were released by the European Commission after Lithuania began carrying out a ban on Russian goods sanctioned by the European Union from being transported through Lithuania and into Kaliningrad, Russia due to Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
Kaliningrad is an enclave between Lithuania and Poland, and due to the fact that goods cannot be transported into the Russian enclave on land without going through Lithuania, Russia has called the ban a "blockade" and threatened "non-diplomatic" retaliatory responses.
The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry said, "Clearly aware that one of the Kremlin regime's objectives is to divide transatlantic unity, [...], Lithuania will continue to remain faithful to the transatlantic partnership and to adhere to the EU's unified and coordinated sanctions policy".
It said that the previous trade rules that blocked Russian cargo sanctioned by the European Union from being transported from the Russian mainland into Kaliningrad through Lithuania were "more acceptable".
The ministry also said that "the publication of the new [...] guidelines may give the unjustified impression that the transatlantic community is softening its position and sanctions policy toward Russia" it added.
Lithuania would, however still be inspecting all goods being transited through the country to make sure that the goods being transported through are in compliance with the current sanctions placed upon Russia by the European Union and said that it "reserves the right to unilaterally prevent such attempts".
Lietuvos Geležinkeliai (LTG), Lithuania's state-run railway system said that it would be waiting for instructions from Lithuanian authorities.
The former Prime Minister of Lithuania, as well as a member of the Lithuanian Parliament, said, "We have said from the very beginning that the biggest danger [...] is that the Kremlin will be happy that it has scared the European Commission".
"Even greater dangers await us because the Kremlin when it feels that it can achieve something with its pressure, tends to [escalate]," he added.
Goods that are deemed essential, including food and other humanitarian items are not banned from reaching Kaliningrad. Furthermore, Russia can still transport what it needs to the country via air and sea transit.