What is happening between Lithuania and Russia? EU defends actions against Putin

Lithuania has been one of Ukraine’s strongest supporters since Russia invaded in February. It has provided military equipment worth millions of euros and recently a crowdfunding campaign in the country raised five million euros to buy Byraktar drones from Turkey.

Kaliningrad is a Russian territory that it captured during the Second World War and held onto after the fall of the Soviet Union.

It is sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland and is a place of strategic importance to Russia being home to its Baltic fleet.

About 430,000 people live there but it is completely isolated from the rest of Russia, which stretches from Europe to the far east.

Trains with goods for Kaliningrad travelled through Lithuania and Belarus, but the new ban will put a stop to most of these.

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Lithuania’s block on Russian goods includes sanctioned goods – such as coal, some metals, construction materials and advanced technology.

The country claimed the move was in line with the EU approach on the restriction of certain goods and materials and nothing more.

Lithuania’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs published a statement yesterday confirming it had adhered to the EU sanctions.

It read: “Lithuania consistently implements EU sanctions, which have different transition periods and dates of entry into force.

“As foreseen in the fourth package of EU sanctions, which was adopted on 15 March 2022, the EU’s restrictive measures on imports into and transit through the EU of Russian steel and other ferrous metal products definitively entered into force on 17 June 2022.”

The ban does not prevent the transit of passengers and non-sanctioned goods from moving to and from the Russian territory.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell confirmed Lithuania’s co-operation in following EU restrictions.

He said at a press conference on Monday: “Lithuania has not taken any unilateral national restrictions and is only applying European Union sanctions.”

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But Russia’s Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov called the move “more than serious” and blasted Lithuania for not allowing the goods through.

He told reporters: “This decision is really unprecedented. It’s a violation of everything.”

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said it would protect its interests if the cargo was not allowed to pass.

A statement read: “If cargo transit between the Kaliningrad region and the rest of the Russian Federation via Lithuania is not fully restored in the near future, then Russia reserves the right to take actions to protect its national interests.”

The row has heightened fears that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could escalate and pull in other nations.

Lithuania is a full NATO member and any military escalation could result in the full might of the military alliance getting involved.

Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba blamed Russia for creating the crisis by invading Ukraine.

He wrote on Twitter: “Moscow has only itself to blame for the consequences of its unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine.”

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