Russian freight train, source: Russian Railways

Lithuania imposes more traffic restrictions on Kaliningrad despite second thoughts

Russian freight train. Source: Russian Railways

The Lithuanian customs have imposed a ban on the transit of Russian cement, alcohol and other products on their way to Kaliningrad by rail. The restrictions came into force on Sunday, 10 July, after a lengthy consultation period with the European Union. Is there still space for the decision to change?

The ban came into force after the expiry of the transitional period provided for in the fifth package of the European Union’s (EU) restrictive measures against Russia. This is the second round of restrictions imposed by Lithuania on Kaliningrad transit. On 17 June, the Baltic state banned the rail transit of steel and ferrous metals to the Russian exclave. In response, Russia threatened to retaliate, accusing Lithuania of breaking international agreements.

Reversing the decision or not?

After Moscow’s initial response, Lithuania and the European Union entered a consultation round to see whether implementing such restrictions was indeed violating international agreements or not. EU and Lithuanian officials feared that the situation would escalate the relations with Russia and even lead to an armed confrontation. Their main concern was that the guidelines that Brussels provided on the sanctions’ implementation were unclear and could lead to misunderstandings.

Despite Russia’s allegations, Lithuania’s position to impose sanctions was firm. It was the EU mainly trying to find some common ground with Russia facing a “compromise or stand-off” dilemma. Indeed various officials even pushed toward reversing the initial ban, with Germany leading the “anti-block” lobby. Reuters had reported that Brussels would come up with the final decision on the matter on 10 July. However, on this date, Lithuania banned more goods, proving in practice that probably the sanctions could not be reversed.

“Sanctions are being implemented according to the regulation adopted by the EU and the assessments of the European Commission, and in consultation with the EU executives,” said the Lithuanian Customs. According to them, further restrictions came into force after assessing the situation with Brussels and checking the legitimacy of the sanctions.

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Author: Nikos Papatolios

Nikos Papatolios is editor of RailFreight.com, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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