EU could reverse Kaliningrad rail cut-off, fearing escalation with Russia

Intermodal terminal in Kaliningrad Region, source: Russian Railways (RZD)
Transhipment of containers at the intermodal terminal in Kaliningrad Region, source: Russian Railways (RZD)

The European Union could reconsider the implementation of sanctions on cargo transit to Kaliningrad. After the initial decision to ban the transit of some products through Lithuanian territory, followed by Moscow’s threat to retaliate, the EU and Lithuania could end up in a compromise that would leave Kaliningrad’s supply chain unaffected.

The EU and Lithuania entered another consultation round a couple of days ago regarding the correct implementation of sanctions on Kaliningrad. The closer look at the EU’s fourth sanction package came after Moscow’s response that Lithuania’s decision violates international agreements. “The government must [..] ensure that the sanctions do not violate Lithuania’s interests or international agreements,” commented Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda on a social media post concerning the situation.

The Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte also commented on Lithuanian media that her country could expect various reactions from Russia after partially stopping rail transit to Kaliningrad. “We can expect various reactions from Russia, not even reactions, but actions,” she told journalists, implying the rising fear of a possible military conflict in the Baltic state.

Compromise or stand-off

This is the context in which the EU could reconsider the sanctions on Kaliningrad. According to Reuters, “European officials edge towards a compromise deal with the Baltic state to defuse a row with Moscow.” In practice, this means that the EU will push towards lifting the sanctions that concern the Russian exclave to calm things down and avoid a confrontation with Russia that could have many and possibly unpleasant faces.

The EU aims to lift any restrictions on Kaliningrad and allow rail traffic to continue, as before, said Reuters. However, Lithuania is not very pleased with the development since, as a spokesperson for the country’s foreign ministry underlined, “sanctions must be enforced, and any decisions taken should not undermine the credibility and effectiveness of EU sanctions policy.”

Nevertheless, a final decision on the situation could be expected by Brussels until 10 July at the latest, explained Reuters citing confidential sources. It must be noted that on 17 June, Lithuania restricted the transit of steel and ferrous metals to Kaliningrad, while information from the Lithuanian Customs Department says that if the situation doesn’t change, a further ban on the transit of cement, alcohol and other products will to come into force on 10 July, on coal and other solid fossil fuels on 10 August, and on Russian oil on 5 December.

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Author: Nikos Papatolios

Nikos Papatolios is the Chief Editor of, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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