EU orders Lithuania to allow some sanctioned Russian goods through to Kaliningrad after finding legal loophole to help Putin
- Lithuania had boldly stood up to Russia and refused to move sanctioned goods
- But the bloc’s legal team said the transport of goods by rail cannot be halted
- Lithuania had argued it was only applying the EU’s own sanctions
The EU has caved into Vladimir Putin‘s demands and ordered defiant Lithuania to stand down and allow the passage of some sanctioned goods to and from the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.
The bloc said that from now on, only weapons could be blockaded and the movement of goods by road, despite the EU themselves previously imposing wider sanctions against Moscow due to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Lithuania had infuriated Putin by halting the movement of concrete, wood, alcohol, coal, metals, construction materials and advanced technology moving through its territory, in the face of multiple threats from the Kremlin.
The small nation of less than three million argued it was only applying EU sanctions, even as Russia vowed retaliation with a ‘very serious negative impact’ on the country.
While transit by road was not allowed, legal guidance by the EU executive said that ‘no such prohibition exists for rail transport’ from Russia to its outpost and that it could not be subject to an outright ban.
The cowardly EU has caved into Vladimir Putin’s demands and ordered defiant Lithuania to stand down and allow the passage of sanctioned goods to and from the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad
‘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,’ said the European Commission, adding that EU states should check such trains.
‘The Commission underlines the importance of monitoring the two-way trade flows between Russia and Kaliningrad… to ensure that sanctioned goods cannot enter the EU customs territory.’
The Commission added that transport of sanctioned military and dual-use goods was prohibited regardless of mode of transport.
Lithuania said it will adhere to the executive’s advice but added that the previous trade rules were ‘more acceptable’.
‘Kaliningrad transit rules may create an unjustified impression that the transatlantic community is softening its position and sanctions policy towards Russia’, the statement said, referring to Wednesday’s advice.
Lithuania had infuriated Putin by halting the movement of good through its own territory (pictured today)
Moscow had previously demanded that Lithuania immediately lift the restrictions, and said it had brought its grievances to European authorities.
Russia said on Friday that it could adopt ‘harsh measures’ against them if the transit of some goods to and from Kaliningrad did not resume ‘within the coming days’.
‘We did not negotiate anything with Russia,’ said EU spokesman Eric Mamer after the guidance was released, despite siding with Putin.
The commission said Lithuania, like all EU countries, had an obligation ‘to prevent all possible forms of circumvention of EU restrictive measures’.
This should be done through ‘targeted, proportionate and effective controls and other appropriate measures’, said the commission, which controls the execution of EU sanctions.
Checks would survey any ‘unusual flows or trade patterns’ that would indicate sanctions busting, it said.
Freight cars are seen blockaded in Kaliningrad last month during Lithuania’s stand off with Russia
Lithuania has no border with mainland Russia but is a neighbour of Belarus.
Kaliningrad borders on NATO and EU member states Lithuania and Poland and relies on railways and roads through Lithuania for most goods.
The coastal territory has been cut off from some freight transport from mainland Russia since June 17 under the EU sanctions regime.
Kaliningrad covers an area roughly half the size of Switzerland and is home to a little over one million people.
Seized by the Red Army from Germany in the closing stages of World War II, it became separated from the Russian mainland following the break-up of the Soviet Union when Lithuania became an independent state.
History of Kaliningrad
The latest diplomatic crisis between Moscow and the West is over the Russian territory of Kaliningrad, a port on the Baltic Sea that is home to nearly a million Russians and connected to the rest of Russia by a rail link through EU- and NATO-member Lithuania.
Kaliningrad was formerly the German port city of Koenigsberg, capital of East Prussia, after being founded in 1255.
For centuries, it remained a German city and eventually came under the control of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany.
But the city was captured from the Nazis by the Red Army in April 1945 and ceded to the Soviet Union after the Second World War.
The Soviet Union renamed the city Kaliningrad in 1946. The city was rebuilt and became a major industrial and commercial centre.
The German population of Kaliningrad was evicted from the city in 1947 and settled in what was then East and West Germany.
Thousands of people from Russia and Belarus moved to the city, which was designated as a ‘closed military zone’ by the communist authorities. This meant that the city was closed to foreigners until 1991.
In order to increase investment in Kaliningrad, the Soviet Union created a special economic zone that exempts most imported and exported goods from customs duties. It meant that trade could easily be moved from Kaliningrad to Russia via Lithuania and Belarus.