Belarus ready to ban rail traffic coming from Lithuania

image: railways.kz

The Belarussian government is ready to respond to Lithuania’s ban on transporting Belarusian potash fertilisers through its territory. The “harsh response measures”, as Prime Minister of Belarus Roman Golovchenko described them, could see the ban of traffic originating from Lithuania in the coming days.

The Lithuanian Railways have clarified in the past weeks that they comply with their government’s instructions to align with the US sanctions on Belarus and thus terminate the transport contracts for Belarusian potash fertilisers.

On top of that, they limit the possibility of other non-state-owned fertiliser companies from Belarus to transport their products through Lithuania. Last week, they rejected the requests of four companies. In a recent update, LTG said it aims to follow the same policy with oil products apart from fertilisers.

Belarus draws the line

The Belarusian Prime Minister’s statement about harsh response measures shows that the country is unhappy with its neighbours. “Lithuania is not letting in our trains, which transport potassium to the Klaipeda port for transhipment. The response measures will be harsh. We will respond symmetrically,” he stressed.

The government has already made up its mind for the steps it will follow. “The decision has been made, and it will affect railway traffic originating from Lithuania’s territory,” said Golovchenko. Simultaneously, he mentioned that Belarus attempted to initiate a dialogue with Lithuania with no results.

Lawsuits on the way

Stopping trains coming from Lithuania is the first step of the Belarusian response. The Prime Minister is convinced that Lithuania violated intergovernmental agreements on railway transport by making a unilateral decision to break the fertiliser transport contracts. Consequently, he warns that his country is following the legal path. “The relevant suits have been filed. We will also recover lost profits. Those are large sums of money,” noted Golovchenko.

Companies reroute

Belarus is well prepared to use alternative routes since it has expected these developments for a long time. “ Due to the longer logistics leg to the Russian Federation, our producers have lost a bit of the profit margin, but rising global prices will compensate for it. So, essentially we’ve lost nothing, but the Lithuanian economy has,” said Golovchenko.

On the other hand, following the news from Belarus, Lithuanian companies draw new transport strategies. For instance, the Polish oil company Orlen announced on 2 February that it would start transporting products from its refinery in Lithuania to Ukraine through Poland after the Belarusian authorities disclosed they wanted to ban rail transit from the Baltic country.

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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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