Russia has threatened action after Lithuania began to block goods from travelling into the exclave of Kaliningrad, greatly increasing tensions between the two countries.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis defended his country’s move to block goods this weekend from entering Kaliningrad, which has no land border with the rest of Russia, stating, “Lithuania is doing nothing here. These are European sanctions, which entered into force on 17 June.”
The Kaliningrad Oblast, traditionally known as Königsberg for its Teutonic roots, is a non-contiguous part of the Russian Federation on the north European Baltic coast. The most direct land route from the state to the rest of Russia is through Lithuania, thence on to either Latvia or Belarus.
Lansbergis added that the ban only applies to goods such as steel imports and does not apply to goods and commodities not covered under the European Union sanctions, broadcaster Yle reports. The Lithuanian state said in a statement seen by Breitbart London that:
The transit of passengers and non-sanctioned goods to and from the Kaliningrad region through Lithuania continues uninterrupted. Lithuania has not imposed any unilateral, individual, or additional restrictions on the transit. Lithuania consistently implements EU sanctions, which have different transition periods and dates of entry into force.
Russian authorities, meanwhile, have called Lithuania’s move “openly hostile,” with Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs calling on the country to end the practice, saying that Russia will have to act to defend its own interests otherwise. Russia is to summon the European ambassador over Brussels’ sanctions being enforced by Lithuania, Politico reports.
“We consider provocative measures of the Lithuanian side which violate Lithuania’s international legal obligations, primarily the 2002 Joint Statement of the Russian Federation and the European Union on transit between the Kaliningrad region and the rest of the Russian Federation, to be openly hostile,” the Ministry said.
Russian government spokesman Dimitri Peskov also labelled the situation as serious, saying, “‘We consider this illegal. The situation is more than serious… we need a serious in-depth analysis in order to work out our response.”
Television presenters and journalists in Russia were even starker in their comments, with reporter Grigory Yemelyanov stating, “The attempt to isolate the region is – from the point of view of international law – in fact a casus belli, a term meaning a formal reason to declare war.”
Ksenia Sobchak, a television presenter and former presidential candidate, made a similar comment saying, “After Lithuania banned the transit of sanctioned goods to the Kaliningrad region through its territory, Russian politicians and the media have started talking …the basis for declaring war.”
Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Lithuania has been one of the countries pushing hardest for sanctions and other policies directed at Russia.
In April, Lithuania cut off all Russian gas imports and urged other European Union nations to do the same, with the country’s energy Ministry stating, “Seeking full energy independence from Russian gas, in response to Russia’s energy blackmail in Europe and the war in Ukraine, Lithuania has completely abandoned Russian gas.”
Later that month, Lithuania’s parliament banned the symbolic use of the letters “Z” and”V” due to their links with the Russian invasion, introducing fines for those who display them, while stating the symbols promote “military aggression, crimes against humanity and war crimes.”
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis has also called for regime change in Russia, stating, “From our standpoint, up until the point the current regime is not in power, the countries surrounding it will be, to some extent, in danger. Not just Putin but the whole regime because, you know, one might change Putin and might change his inner circle but another Putin might rise into his place.”