Kaliningrad blockade dispute – Russia threatens Lithuania with “practical” retaliation

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From: Katja Thorwarth and Marvin Ziegele


Russia warns West against Lithuanian blockade of Russian exclave Kaliningrad The US presents itself as “NATO allies”.

+++ 16:15: Russia has threatened to retaliate against Lithuania in a dispute over restrictions on transit to Kaliningrad. At a press conference on Wednesday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zacharovova threatened that the answer would be “not in the diplomatic but practical sphere” if the EU does not lift its restrictions. However, there were no specific details in their statements. The Kremlin’s statement was also made. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said transit restrictions contradicted the “basic documents” of the Russia-Lithuania partnership. Peskov referred to the 1994 agreement. A response to the provocation is currently being prepared, a Kremlin spokesman said.

+++ 15:00: The federal government has warned Russia against escalating in Lithuania. “That is why we unequivocally reject the countermeasures announced by Russia,” government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said in Berlin on Wednesday. “We call on Russia not to take any measures that violate international law.”

Ukrainian war
A Russian army vehicle during a military exercise in the Kaliningrad region. (Stock photo) © Mikhail Golenkov / Imago Images

+++ 11:30: The Kaliningrad exclave on the Baltic Sea is part of Russia, but since the collapse of the Soviet Union it lies between Poland and Lithuania – two countries that belong to the EU and NATO and are among the most important supporters of the government in Kiev in the Ukrainian war. Now Lithuania has blocked supplies of coal, metals, building materials and high technology from Russia to Kaliningrad. According to the news agency Ria Novosti, Russia has now reacted to the blockade. Russia considers the action “hostile” and is therefore not ready for talks. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakhar stressed that the situation required “thorough analysis”. Then “reprisals” would be accepted.

Updates from Wednesday, June 22 11:00: In a dispute over the restriction of freight traffic to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, the United States took a protective stance against Lithuania. Following Moscow’s threat that Russia would “respond to such hostilities,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Tuesday that Washington was on the side of its “NATO allies,” including Lithuania.

Price explicitly referred to Article 5 of the NATO Treaty, according to which an attack on an allied country is considered an attack on all. He stressed that the US commitment to the article was “inevitable.”

+++ 16:30: According to Lieutenant General Ingo Gerhardtz of the German Air Force, NATO should take threats from Russia seriously. One must be prepared for the nuclear threat and, if necessary, be able to discourage Moscow. “For a reliable deterrent, we need both the means and the political will,” Gerhardtz told the Kiel International Seapower Symposium (KISS). The German Air Force inspector explicitly included nuclear weapons among the means.

+++ 12:45: Russia has announced retaliatory measures against Lithuania, which “will have a serious negative impact on the Lithuanian people.” Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev said Moscow would soon respond to Lithuania’s blockade of supplies of coal, metals, building materials and high technology from mainland Russia to Kaliningrad.

The corresponding measures are currently being developed in an “inter-ministerial format and will be taken in the near future,” Patrushev told Interfax. His warning came when a retired Russian general, Evgeny Buzhinsky, urged Putin to send nuclear weapons to Kaliningrad.

Kaliningrad blockade: Moscow threatens EU member state Lithuania

First report from Tuesday, June 21: MOSCOW – The Kremlin has reacted indignantly to Lithuania’s restrictions on rail transit between Russia’s Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad and the mainland. Russia’s foreign ministry has accused Lithuania of “openly hostile” restrictions on rail freight, while retaining “the right to take action to protect its national interests.” Brussels has meanwhile emphasized that the measures are in line with EU sanctions, but that the guidelines on sanctions will be reviewed.

According to the Foreign Ministry, the Lithuanian Chargé d’affaires was called to Moscow to protest against “provocative” measures. From a Russian perspective, restrictions on the supply of goods run counter to the 2002 Russia-EU agreement. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the measures were in line with the EU. In response to Russia’s war on attack, Ukraine has imposed sanctions.

Kaliningrad: 40 to 50 percent of Russian imports affected by the blockade

Kaliningrad is located on the Baltic coast between Lithuania and Poland and has no direct land connections with Russia. The port city is home to the Russian fleet in the Baltic Sea, and Russia claims to have placed nuclear-capable Iskander missiles there.

Kaliningrad does not have direct access to mainland Russia.
Kaliningrad does not have direct access to mainland Russia. © IMAGO / Michail Golenkov

On the sidelines of EU foreign ministers’ consultations in Luxembourg, Landsbergis said transport restrictions would affect steel products and other goods made from iron ore. As Kaliningrad Governor Anton Alichanov explained, the blockade could affect 40 to 50 percent of imports – except for metal, coal, building materials and technological goods.

Ukrainian war: relations between Russia and Lithuania strained

The Kremlin spoke of an “unprecedented” decision by Lithuania that violated all principles. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stressed the seriousness of the situation, which is now being examined with regard to “reactions”. He did not specify the nature of these countermeasures.

Relations between Russia and Lithuania, as well as two other Baltic countries, Latvia and Estonia, are already extremely tense due to the war in Ukraine. The Baltic states fear that they will become another target of Russian military aggression, because the country belongs to both the EU and NATO.

Regarding freight restrictions, Landsbergis said: “It is not Lithuania that is doing anything – it is the European sanctions that came into force on June 17.” The restrictions are “in consultation with the European Commission and in accordance with European Commission directives” have been implemented.

Ukraine shows solidarity with Lithuania

EU foreign policy chief Borrell, for his part, emphasized that this was not a “blockade” of Kaliningrad, but only a ban on the transport of certain types of goods. “Land transit between Russia has not been stopped or banned,” he told a news conference in Luxembourg. However, the EU will re-examine the sanctions guidelines, Borrell promised.

Ukraine, which is currently suffering from Russian attacks mainly from the Black Sea, has in the meantime underlined its solidarity with Lithuania. “Russia has no right to threaten Lithuania,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Twitter. “We welcome Lithuania’s principled stance and strongly support our Lithuanian friends.” (Ktho / marv with dpa / AFP)

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