“It’s a tough time for the region.” What is important to know about the commodity blockade of Kaliningrad

Authorities of the Kaliningrad region published June 20, a list of goods that are subject to a ban on their transportation by rail through Lithuania. RTVI figured out what the ban is connected with, what goods it will affect, what the Russian authorities are going to do, and what consequences it will have for the inhabitants and the economy of the region.

What happened

About termination transit of goods subject to EU sanctions, moving to the Kaliningrad region through the territory of Lithuania, June 17 reported Governor of the Kaliningrad region Anton Alikhanov. The suspension of transit came into force from midnight June 18, as a consequence “Lithuanian Railways” stopped passing transit trains with goods.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania Gabrielius Landsbergis confirmed the introduction of the ban and specified that this was done after consultations with the European Commission. “These are not Lithuanian actions, these are European sanctions that will be applied from June 17, and the sanctions are currently being applied by railways, which inform their customers that the goods that have been subject to sanctions since June 17 are steel and other products, produced from iron ore that will no longer be imported through Lithuania, this is being done in consultation with the European Commission,” Landsbergis explained on June 20.

RTVI sent a request to the press service European External Action Service (EEAS).

On the evening of June 20, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell declaredthat Lithuania’s blocking of cargo complies with EU rules. “Under EU sanctions, there are import and export restrictions that apply to certain goods. Lithuania follows the instructions of the European Commission […]if transit through the territory of the EU for some goods is prohibited,” he explained.

Press Secretary of the Russian President Dmitry Peskov named decision of Vilnius “an element of the blockade”. “We understand that this is due to the decision of the EU to extend sanctions to transit. We also consider it illegal. The situation is more than serious, it requires a deep analysis before formulating any measures and decisions,” he said. June 20, adding that an evaluation of the situation will be carried out in the “coming days”.

At the Russian Foreign Ministry on June 20 called Chargé d’affaires a.i. of Lithuania. Anton Alikhanov specified in his Telegram channel that the Russian Foreign Ministry is negotiating with EU representatives.

What are the sanctions

Problems with the transit of goods through Lithuania were the result of the EU’s adoption of the sixth package of sanctions against Russia in connection with the “special operation” in Ukraine. The list of prohibited items includes dual-use goods and goods (80 chemicals) that can be used for the production of chemical weapons. The restrictions also include an embargo on the import of oil into the EU, but it will take effect from December.

Vitaly Nevar / TASS

Anton Alikhanov spokethat up to 50% of the range of goods imported to Kaliningrad from the rest of Russia will fall under the transit ban. The prohibitive measures affected, in particular, building materials, cement, metals and a number of other important goods. In his telegram channel, Alikhanov published a link to a document of the European Commission, which states that the restrictive measuresprohibit the export, import and transfer of certain goods between the EU and Russia. In particular, this applies to road transport, and Article 3I includes a ban on transit through the territory of EU Member States.Thus, transit between Kaliningrad and the Russian mainland via EU member states is also prohibited.” says in the document.

Alikhanov stressed that when the fifth EU sanctions package was introduced, it contained a clause regarding transit to Kaliningrad, but this was not done in the case of the sixth package. He remindedthat in 2002 an agreement was signed between Russia and the EU on a special zone in the Kaliningrad region, and in 2003 Lithuania allowed trains to run on its territory.

How big of a problem will the transit ban be?

A ban on rail transit of 40-50% of cargo through Lithuania to the Kaliningrad region may provoke a shortage of goods in the region, an economic geographer and professor at Moscow State University admitted in a conversation with RTVI. M. V. Lomonosova Natalya Zubarevich. “The ban on transit means undersupply of many types of products that the region needs. The problem is very serious, difficult times have come for the Kaliningrad region, ”the expert noted. Alternative routes – only four ferries from Ust-Luga, Leningrad Region, to Kaliningrad. “All sanctioned goods will not be transported. The most voluminous cargoes – oil products, metal, building materials, timber – cannot be transported by ferries, ”Zubarevich stated.

Alikhanov urged Kaliningraders to remain calm. According to him, it is planned to increase the supply of non-sanctioned goods through Lithuania, and sanctioned goods will be delivered by ferries. Thus, there will be no shortage of goods and people should not buy cement in the same volumes as sugar after the introduction of the first EU sanctions, the governor advised. He added that he had already contacted representatives “Lithuanian Railways” and discussed the possibilities of resolving the situation.

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