Russian freight train, source: Russian Railways

It’s official: no sanctions apply to Kaliningrad’s rail transit

Russian freight train. Source: Russian Railways

The European Commission realised the scenario of reversing the decision to impose restrictions on rail freight transit to Kaliningrad via Lithuania. Brussels published a guidance document clarifying that no sanction regime applies to rail transport between the Kaliningrad Oblast and Russia.

Specifically, the EU Commission explained: “road transport undertakings established in Russia are prohibited from transporting goods by road within the territory of the Union, including in transit. However, this ban does not apply to the transport of goods in transit through the Union between the Kaliningrad Oblast and Russia, provided that the transport of such goods is not otherwise prohibited under the Regulation. Transit of sanctioned goods by road is therefore not allowed.”

Additionally, the Commission continued regarding rail: “no such specific regime applies to rail transport on the same route, without prejudice to Member States’ obligation to perform effective controls as set out below, in conformity with EU law.”

The compromise or stand-off dilemma

The European Union started reconsidering the implementation of sanctions on cargo transit to Kaliningrad after Moscow’s threat to retaliate against Lithuania in various ways. Despite implementing some restrictions in mid-June, the Commission and the Lithuanian government entered another consultation round to ensure the correct implementation of sanctions.

Doubts rose after Russia claimed that Lithuania’s decision violated international agreements. Back then, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda mentioned on social media that “the government must [..] ensure that the sanctions do not violate Lithuania’s interests or international agreements.” In the end, the Commission’s final guideline document proved that Lithuania’s decision could be cursory and ungrounded since transport between different parts of Russia cannot be banned.

On behalf of Lithuania, the country’s former prime minister, Saulius Skvernelis, stated that “the ban on the transit of some goods via Lithuania from continental Russia to its Kaliningrad region was a misinterpretation of Lithuanian institutions in the context of the existing EU sanctions.”

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Author: Nikos Papatolios

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

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